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BooIc._ ' nl . 



CQEXRIGHT DEPOSm 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 

AN INFENTION 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

NOVELS: 

REGIMENT OF WOMEN 
FIRST THE BLADE 
LEGEND 

PLAY: 

A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT 



J 

WILL SHAKESPEARE 

A'N INVENTION IN FOUR ACTS 



BY 



CLEMENCE DANE u(j^i-^ljl^^ .:i 



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
1922 

All rights reserved 



Cv^ 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 






Copyright, 1921 and 1922 
By CLEMENCE DANE 

Set up and printed. Published January, 1922 



©C.I.A554197 



'^ 



Press of 

J. J. Little & Ives Company 

New York, U. S. A. 



JAN I I 1922 



r-WA-C "l^' 



"There's a divinity that shapes our ends. 
Rough-hew them how we will." 

Shakespeare. 



-7 



THE PEOPLE OF THE PLAY 

As they appear, 

Anne Hathaway. 

Will Shakespeare. 

Mrs. Hathaway. 

Henslowe. 

A Child. 

Players. 

Queen Elizabeth. 

Mary Fitton. 

Kit Marlowe. 

Stage Hands. 

A Boy. 

A Landlord. 

A Man. 

Another Man. 

A Girl. 

A Street Hawker. 

A Page. 

Soldiers, Attendants, etc. 

ACT I. — ^A Cottage in Stratford. 

ACT n. — Ten Years Later — Scene i. A Room in 
THE Palace. Scene 2. Three Months Later — 
The First Night of "Romeo and Juliet." 

ACT in. — Scene i. A Month Later — Shake- 
speare's Lodging. Scene 2. The Same Night 
— A Room at an Inn. 

ACT IV. — The Next Day — A State Room in the 
Palace. 



The Play was first acted at the Shaftesbury Theatre, 
London, on November 17th, 1921, by the Reandean 
Company, with the following cast : — 



Will Shakespeare 

Anne 

Mrs. Hathaway 

Henslowe 

Queen Elizabeth 

Mary Fitton 

Kit Marlowe 

A Child Actor 

A Secretary 

A Stage Hand 

A Boy 

A Landlord 

A Lady-in-waiting 



Mr. Philip Merivale 

Miss Moyna Macgill 

Miss Mary Rorke 

Mr. Arthur Whitby 

Miss Haidee Wright 

Miss Mary Clare 

Mr. Claude Rains 

Master Eric Spear 

Mr. Arthur Bawtree 

Mr. Gilbert Ritchie 

Master Spear 

Mr. Ivor Barnard 

Miss Joan Maclean 



Shadows in Act I. 



Ophelia Miss Lennie Pride 

Desdemona Miss Gladys Jessel 

Othello Mr. Herbert Young 

Queen Margaret Miss Flora Robson 
Prince Arthur Mr. Eric Crosbie 
Rosalind Miss Phyllis Fabian 

The Three Fates 



Shylock 

Clown 

Hamlet 

Caesar 

Cleopatra 

King Lear 



Mr. Gilbert Ritchie 

Mr. Ivor Barnard 

Mr. Neil Curtis 

Mr. Arthur Bawtree 

Miss Mai Ashley 

Mr. Fred Morgan 



Miss Nora Robinson 
Miss Gladys Gray 
Miss Beatrice Smith 



Strolling Players, Beefeaters, Stage Hands, Drinkers, 
Court Attendants, etc. 



The Production by Basil Dean. 

The Music by Thomas Wood. 

Designs for the Scenery and Dresses by George Haeris. 



ACT I 

The curtain rises on the living room of a sixteenth century 
cottage. The walls and ceiling are of black beams and 
white-washed plaster. On the left is a large open 
fireplace with logs burning. Beyond it is a door. At 
the back is another door and a mullioned window half 
open giving a glimpse of bare garden hedge and 
winter sky. On the right wall is a staircase running 
down from the ceiling into the room, a dresser and 
a light shelf holding a book or two. Under the shelf 
is a small table piled with papers, ink-stand, sand box 
and so on. At it sits Shakespeare, his elbows on his 
papers, his head in his hands, absorbed. He is a boy 
of twenty but looks older. He is dark and slight. 
His voice is low, but he speaks very clearly. Behind 
him Anne Hathaway moves to and fro from dresser 
to the central table, laying a meal. She is a slender, 
pale woman with reddish hair. Her movements are 
quick and furtive and she has a high sweet voice that 
shrills too easily. 

ANNE 

{^Hesitating, with little pauses between the sentences."] 
Supper is ready, Will ! Will, did you hear ? 
A farm-bird — Mother brought it. Won't you come ? 
She's crying in for the basket presently. 
First primroses ! Here, smell ! Sweet, aren't they ? 
Bread? 

I 



2 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Are the snow wreaths gone from the fields? Did 
you go far? 

Are you wet? Was it cold? There's black frost 
in the air, 

My mother says, and spring hangs dead on the 
boughs — 

Oh, you might answer when I speak to you! 

^Shakespeare gets up quickly.'] 
Where are you going? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Out! 

ANNE 

Where? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Anywhere — 

ANNE 

! — away from me! Yes! Say it! 

SHAKESPEARE 

{Under his breath.'] 
Patience ! Patience ! 

ANNE 

Come back! Come back! I'm sorry. Oh, come 
back! 

I talk too much. I crossed you. You must eat. 
Oh ! Oh ! I meant no harm — I meant no harm ! — 
You know? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I know. 

ANNE 

Why then, come back and eat. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 3 

And talk to me. Aren't you a boy to lose 
All day in the woods? 

SHAKESPEARE 

The town! 

ANNE 

Ah ! In the town ? 

Ah then, you've talked and eaten. Yes, you can talk 

In the town! 

[He goes back to his desk.'] 
More writing? What's the dream to-day? 

[He winces.'] 
Oh, tell me, tell me! 

SHAKESPEARE 

No! 

ANNE 

I want your dreams. 

SHAKESPEARE 

A dream's a bubble, Anne, and yet a world, 
Unsailed, uncharted, mine. But stretch your hand 
To touch it — gone ! And you have wet your fingers, 
Whilst I, like Alexander, want my world — 
And so I scold my wife. 

ANNE 

Oh, let me sail 
Your world with you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

One day, when all is mapped 
On paper — 

ANNE 

Now! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Not yet. 

ANNE 

Now, now! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I cannot! 

ANNE 

Because you will not. Ever you shut me out. 

SHAKESPEARE 

How many are there in the listening room? 

ANNE 

We two. 
We three. 
Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Are there not three? Yet swift, 
Because it is too soon, you shrink from me, 
Guarding your mystery still ; so must I guard 
My dreams from any touch till they are born. 

ANNE 

What ! Do you make our bond our barrier now ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

See, you're a child that clamours — "Let me taste!' 
But laugh and let it sip your wine, it cries — 
"I like it not. It is not sweet !" — and blames you. 
See ! even when I give you cannot take. 

ANNE 

Try me! 



SHAKESPEARE 

ANNE 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 5 

SHAKESPEARE 

Too late. 

ANNE 

I will not think I know 

What cruelty you mean. What is't you mean? 

What is't? 

SHAKESPEARE 

How long since we two married? 

ANNE 

Why, 

Four months. 

SHAKESPEARE 

And are you happy? 

ANNE 

Will, aren't you? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I asked my wife. 

ANNE 

I am! I am! I am! 

Oh, how can I be happy when I read 

Your eyes, and read — what is it that I read? 

SHAKESPEARE 

God knows! 

ANNE 

Yes, God He knows, but He's so far away-^ 
Tell Anne! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Touch not these cellar thoughts, half worm, half 
weed : 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Give them no light, no air : be warned in time : 
Break not the seal nor roll away the stone, 
Lest the blind evil writhe itself heart-high 
And its breath stale us! 

ANNE 

Oh, what evil? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Know you not? 

Why then I'll say "Thank God !" and never tell you — 

And yet I think you know? 

ANNE 

Am I, your wife, 

Wiser than your own mother in your ways 

(For she was wise for many, IVe but you) 

Ways in my heart stored, and with them the unborn 

I feed, that he may grow a second you — 

Am I your wife, so close to you all day. 

So close to you all night, that oft I lie 

Counting your heart-beats — do I watch you stir 

And cry out suddenly and clench your hand 

Till the bone shows white, and then you sigh and turn. 

And sometimes smile, but never ope your eyes. 

Nor know me with a seeking touch of hands 

That bids me share the dream — am I your wife. 

Can I be woman and your very wife 

And know not you are burdened ? You lock me out. 

Yet at the door I wait, wringing my hands 

To help you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

You could help me ; but — I know you ! 

You'd help me, in your way, to go — your way! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ANNE 

The right way. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Said I not, sweetheart — your way? 
So — cleave it! 

IHe begins to write. Anne goes to the window and 
leans against it, looking out.'] 

ANNE 

[Softly.-] 
Give me words ! God, give me words ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Sweetheart, you stay the Hght. 

ANNE 

The pane is cool. 

[She moves to one side."] 
Can you see now? 

SHAKESPEARE 

That's better. 

\_The twang of a lute is heard,'] 

ANNE 

The road dances. 

A VOICE 

ISinging.] 

Come with me to London, 

Folly, come away! 
I'll make your fortune 
On a fine day — 

ANNE 

A stranger with my mother at the gate! 

[She opens the door to Mrs. Hathaway, who enters.] 



8 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

THE VOICE 

INearer.'] 
Daisy leave and buttercup! 
Pick your gold and silver up, 

In London, in London, 

Oh, London Town ! 

ANNE 

What have you brought us, Mother, unawares? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Why, I met the man in the lane and he asked his 
way here. He wants Will. ' 

ANNE 

Does he, and does he? 

SHAKESPEARE 

lAt the window.'] 
One of the players. In the town I met him 
And had some talk, and told him of my play. 

ANNE 

You told a stranger and a player? But I — 
I am not told ! 

THE VOICE 

[Close at hand.] 
For sheep can feed 
And robins breed 
Without you, without you. 
And the world get on without you—; 
Oh, London Town! 
[Shakespeare goes to the door.] 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 9 

ANNE 

[Stopping himJ] 
What brings him here? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I bring him ! 

To my own house. 

IHe goes out.'] 
MRS. HATHAWAY 

Trouble ? 

ANNE 

Why, no! No trouble! 

I am not beaten, starved, nor put on the street. 

"MRS. HATHAWAY 

Be wise, be wise ; for the child's sake, be wiser ! 

ANNE 

What shall I do ? Out of your fifty years, 
What shall I do to hold him? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

A low voice 

And a light heart is best — and not to judge. 

ANNE 

Light, Mother, light? Oh, Mother, Mother, Mother! 
I'm battling on the crumble-edge of loss 
Against a seaward wind, that drives his ship 
To fortunate isles, but carries me cliff over. 
Clutching at flint and thistle-hold, to braise me 
Upon the barren beaches he has left 
For ever. 
[Shakespeare and the player, Henslowe, come in talking."] 



10 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

[^At the inner doorJ] 
Come, find my basket for me. Let them be! 

ANNE 

Look at him, how his face lights up! 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Come now. 

And leave them to it ! 

ANNE 

I dare not, Mother, I dare not. 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

It's not the way — a little trust — 

ANNE 

I dare not. 
IMrs. Hathaway goes out at the door by the fire.'] 

HENSLOWE 

\_In talk. He is a stout, good-humoured, elderly man, with 
bright eyes and a dancing step. He wears ear-rings, 
is dressed shabby-handsome, and is splashed with mud. 
A lute is slung at his shoulder.] 

Played? It shall be played. That's why I'm here. 

ANNE 

{Behind them.] 
Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

[Turning.] 
This is my wife. 

ANNE 

[Curtseys. Then, half aside.] 
Who is the man? Where from? What is his name? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 11 

HENSLOWE 
10 ver hearing.'] 
Proteus, Madonna! A poor son of the god. 
[Shakespeare laughs.] 

ANNE 

A foreigner? 

HENSLOWE 

Why, yes and no ! Fm from Spain at the moment — 
I have castles there ; but my bed-sitting room (a green 
room. Madonna) is in Black friars. As to my means, 
for I see your eye on my travel stains, I have a bank 
account, also in Spain, a box office, and the best of 
references. The world and his wife employ me, the 
Queen comes to see me, and all the men of genius run 
to be my servants. But as to who I am — O Madonna, 
who am I not? IVe played every card in the pack, 
beginning as the least in the company, the mere unit, 
the innocent ace, running up my number with each 
change of hand to Jack, Queen, King, and so to myself 
again, the same mere One, but grown to my hopes. 
For Queen may blow kisses, King of Hearts command 
all hands at court, but Ace in his shirt-sleeves is man- 
ager and trumps them off the board at will. You may 
learn from this Ace; for I think, sir, you will end 
as he does, the master of your suit. 

ANNE 

A fortune-teller too! 

HENSLOWE 

Will you cross my palm with a sixpence. Madonna? 



12 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ANNE 

With nothing. 

HENSLOWE 

Beware lest I tell you for nothing that you — fear 
your fortune! 

SHAKESPEARE 

[Spreading his hand."] 
Is mine worth fearing? 

HENSLOWE 

Here's an actor's hand, and a bad one. You'll lose 
your words, King o' Hearts. Your great scene will 
break down. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Then Fll be 'prenticed direct to the Ace. 

HENSLOWE 

Too fast. You must come to cues like the rest of 
tis, and play out your part, before you can be God 
Almighty in the wings — as God himself found out 
when the world was youngish. 

ANNE 

We're plain people, sir, and my husband works his 
farm. 

HENSLOWE 

And sings songs? I've been trying out a new play 
in the provinces before we risk London and Gloriana — 

ANNE 

What! the Queen! the Queen? 

HENSLOWE 

Oh, she keeps her eye on poor players as well as 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 13 

on Burleigh and the fleet. There's God Almighty in 
the wings if you Hke! But as I say — 
Whatever barn we storm, here in the west, 
We're marching to the echo of new songs, 
Jigged out in taverns, trolled along the street, 
Loosed under sweetheart windows, whistled and 

sighed 
Wherever a farmer's boy in Lover's Lane 
Shifts from the right foot to the left and waits — 
"Where did you hear it?" say I, beating time: 
And always comes the answer — "Stratford way!" 
A green parish, Stratford! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Too flat, though I love it. Give me hills to climb! 

HENSLOWE 

Flat? You should see Norfolk, where I was a boy. 
From sky to sky there's no break in the levels but 
shock-head willows and reed tussocks where a sing- 
ing bird may nest. But in which? Oh, for that you 
must sit unstirring in your boat, between still water 
and still sky, while the drips run off your blade until 
a yard away, uprises the song. Then, flash! part the 
rushes — the nest is bare and the bird your own ! Oh, 
I know the ways of the water birds! And so, hear- 
ing of a cygnet on the banks of Avon — 

ANNE 

Ah! 

HENSLOWE 

You're right. Madonna, the poetical vein runs dry. 
So I'll end with a plain question — "Is not Thames 
broader than Avon?" 



14 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Muddier — 

HENSLOWE 

But a magical water to hasten the moult, to wash 
white a young swan's feathers. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Or black, Mephisto! 

HENSLOWE 

Black swans are rarest. I saw one when I was 
last in London. London's a great city! Madonna, 
you should send your husband to market in London, 
and in a twelvemonth he'll bring you home the world 
in his pocket as it might be a russet apple. 

ANNE 

What should we do with the world, sir, here in 
Stratford? 

HENSLOWE 

Why, seed it and sow it, and plant it in your garden, 
and it'll grow into the tree of knowledge. 

ANNE 
[Turning away.'] 

My garden is planted already. 

HENSLOWE 

[In a low voice.l 
The black swan seeks a mate, black swan, 

SHAKESPEARE 

A woman? 

ANNE 

[Turning sharply."] 
What did he say to you? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 15 

HENSLOWE 

Why, that a woman can make her fortune in Lon- 
don as well as a man. There's one came lately to 
court, but sixteen and a mere knight's daughter, with- 
out a penny piece, and you should see her now ! The 
men at her feet — 

ANNE 

And the women — ? 

HENSLOWE 

Under her heel. 

ANNE 

What does the Queen say? 

HENSLOWE 

Winks and lets her be. 
A fashion out of fashion — gipsy-black 
Among the ladies with their bracken hair, 
(The Queen, you know, is red!) 

SHAKESPEARE 

A vixen, eh? 

HENSLOWE 

Treason, my son! 

ANNE 

God made us anyway and coloured us! 

SHAKESPEARE 

And is he less the artist if at will 

He strings a black pearl, hangs between the camps 

Of day and day the banner of His dark? 

Or that He leaves, when with His autumn breath 

He fans the bonfire of the woods, a pine 

Unkindled? 



i6 WILL SHAKESPEARE 



HENSLOWE 

True ; and such a black is she 
Among the golden women. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I see your pine, 
Your branching solitude, your evening tree. 
With high, untroubled head, that meets the eye 
As lips meet unseen kisses in the night — 
A perfumed dusk, a canopy of dreams 
And chapel of ease, a harp for summer airs 
To tremble in — 

ANNE 

Barren the ground beneath, 
No flowers, no grass, the needles lying thick, 
Spent arrows — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Yes, she knows — we know how women 

Can prick a man to death with needle stabs. 

ANNE 

O God! 

HENSLOWE 

Your wife ! She's ill ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Anne? 

ANNE 

Let me be! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Come to your mother — ^take my arm — 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 17 

ANNE 

riisit. 

I have no strength. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'll call her to you. 
[He goes out."] 

ANNE 

Quick! 

Before he comes, what is her name? her name? 
Her mood ? her mind ? In all the town of Stratford 
Was there no door but this to pound at ? Quick ! 
You know her ? Did you see his look ? O God ! 
The last rope parts. He's like a boat that strains, 
Strains at her moorings. Why did you praise her 

so? 
And talk of London? What's it all to you? 
Tall, is she? Yes, like a tree — a block of wood — 
You said so! (Is he coming?) Tell me quick! 
I've never seen a London lady close. 
She's lovely? So are many! How? 

HENSLOWE 

She's new! 

She's gallant, like a tall ship setting sail, 
And boasts she fears no man. Say "woman" 
though — 

ANNE 

What woman does this woman fear? 

HENSLOWE 

The Queen. 

I've seen it in her eye. 



i8 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ANNE 

I should not fear. 

HENSLOWE 

You never saw the Queen of England smile 
And crook her finger, once — and the fate falls. 

ANNE 

IVe seen her picture. She's eaten of a worm 
As I am eaten. I'd not fear the Queen. 
Her snake would know its fellow in my heart 
And pass me. But this woman — what's her name? 

'^ HENSLOWE 

Mary — 

ANNE 

That's "bitter." I shall find her so. 

[Shakespeare comes in with Mrs. Hathaway.] 

Look at him ! Fear the Queen ? Did not the Queen, 
My sister, meet a Mary long ago 
That bruised her in the heel? 

HENSLOWE 

Man, your wife's mad! 

She says the Queen's her sister. 

ANNE 

Mad, noble Festus? 

Not I ! But tell him so — he'll kiss you for it. 

HENSLOWE 

I'll meet you, friend, some other time or place — 

SHAKESPEARE 

What's this ? You're leaving us ? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 19 

HENSLOWE 

Your wife's too ill — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Too ill to stand, yet not too ill to — lAside."] Anne! 
Why does he stare ? What have you told my friend ? 

ANNE 

Your friend! 

SHAKESPEARE 

My friend ! 

ANNE 

This once-met Londoner! 
What does he want of you, in spite of me? 
This bribing tramp, this palpable decoy — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Be silent in my house before my friends! ^ 
Be silent! 

ANNE 

This your friend! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Silent, I say! 

ANNE 

I will not I Blows ? Would you do that to me, 
Husband ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I never touched you ! 

ANNE 

What! No blow? 
Here, where I felt it — here? Is there no wound. 
No black mark? 



20 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

"MRS. HATHAWAY 

Oh, she's wild ! I'll take her. 
Come! 
Come, Amie! It's naught! I know the signs. 

[To Shakespeare] 

Stay you! 

ANNE 

O Mother, there befell me a strange pang 
Here at my heart — 

{The two go out together."] 

SHAKESPEARE 

O women! women! women! 
They slink about you, noiseless as a cat. 
With ready smiles and ready silences. 
These women are too humble and too wise 
In pricking needle-ways: they drive you mad 
With fibs and slips and kisses out of time: 
And if you do not trip and feign as they 
And cover all with kisses, do but wince 
Once in your soul (the soul they shall not touch, 
Never, I tell you, never ! Sooner the smeared. 
The old-time honey death from a thousand stings. 
Than let their tongue prick patterns on your soul !) 
Then, then all's cat-like clamour and annoy! 

HENSLOWE 

Cry, "Shoo !" and clap your hands ; for so are all 
Familiar women. These are but interludes 
In the march of the play, and should be taken SO, 
Lightly, as food for laughter, not for rage, 

SHAKESPEARE 

Mv mother- 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 21 

HENSLOWE 

IShrugging."] 
Ah, your mother ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

She's not thus, 
But selfless; and I've dreamed of others — tall. 
Warm-flushed Hke pine-woods with their clear red 

stems, 
With massy hair and voices like the wind 
Stirring the cool dark silence of the pines. 
Know you such women ? — beckoning hill-top women, 
That sway to you with lovely gifts of shade 
And slumber, and deep peace, and when at dawn 
You go from them on pilgrimage again, 
They follow not nor weep, but rooted stand 
In their own pride for ever — demi-gods. 
Are these such women? Did you say you knew 
Such women? such a woman? 

HENSLOWE 

Come to London 
And use your eyes ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

How can I come to London? 
You see me what I am, a man tied down. 
My wife — ^you saw ! How can I come to London ? 
Say to a sick man "Take your bed and walk !" 
Say to a prisoner "Release your chain!'* 
Say to a tongue-slit blackbird "Pipe again 
As in the free, the spring time !" You maybe 
Have spells to help them, but for me no help. 



22 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

London ! 

I think sometimes that I shall never see 

This lady in whose lap the weed-hung ships 

From ocean-end returning pour their gold, 

Myrrh, frankincense. What colour's frankincense? 

And how will a man's eye move and how his hand, 

Who sailed the flat world round and home again 

To London, London of the mazy streets, 

Where ever the shifting people flash and fade 

Like my own thoughts? You're smiling — why? 

HENSLOWE 

I live there. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Oh, to be you! 

To read the faces and to write the dreams, 

To hear the voices and record the songs. 

To grave upon the metal of my mind 

All great men, lordlier than they know themselves, 

And fowler-like to fling my net o'er London, 

And some let fly, and clip the wings of some 

Fit for my notes; till one fine day I catch 

The Governess of England as she goes 

To solemn service with her gentlemen: 

(What thoughts behind the mask, beneath the 

crown?) 
Queen! The crowd's eyes are yours, but not my 

eyes! 
Queen ! To my piping you shall unawares 
Strut on my stage for me ! You laugh ? I swear 
I'll make that thrice- wrapped, politic, vain heart 
My horn-book (as you all are) whence I'll learn 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 23 

How Julius frowned, and Elinor rode her way 
Rough-shod, and Egypt met ill-news. I'll do it. 
Though I hold horses in the streets for hire, 
Once I am come to London. 

HENSLOWE 

Come with us 
And there's no holding horses! Part and pay 
Are ready, and we start to-night. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I cannot. 
I'm Whittington at cross-roads, but the bells 
Ring "Turn again to Stratford !" not to London. 

HENSLOWE 

Well — as you choose! 

SHAKESPEARE 

As I choose? // / choose? 
I'm married to a woman near her time 
That needs me! Choose? I am not twenty, sir! 
What devil sped you here to bid me choose? 
I knew a boy went wandering in a wood. 
Drunken with common dew and beauty-mad 
And moonstruck. Then there came a nightshade 

witch. 
Locked hands with him, small hands, hot hands, 

down drew him, 
Sighing — "Love me, love me !" as a ring-dove sighs, 
(How white a woman is, under the moon!) 
She was scarce human. Yet he took her home, 
And now she's turned in the gross light of da3i5 
To a haggard scold, and he handfasted sits 



24 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Breaking his heart — ^and yet the spell constrains 

him. 
This is not I, not I, for I am bound 
To a good wife and true, that loves me ; but — 
I tell you I could write of such a man, 
And make you laugh and weep at such a man. 
For your own manhood's sake, so bound, so bound. 

HENSLOWE 

Laugh? Weep? No, I'd be a friend to such a man ! 
Go to him now and tell him from me^-or no! Go 
rather to this wife of his that loves him well, you 
say — ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Too well! 

HENSLOWE 

Why, man, it's common I Or too light, too low. 
Not once in a golden age love's scale trims level. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I read of lovers once in Italy — 

HENSLOWE 

You'll write of lovers too, not once nor twice. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Their scales were level ere they died of love, 
In Italy. 

HENSLOWE 

But if instead they had lived — in Stratford — there'd 
have been such a see-saw in six months as — 

SHAKESPEARE 

As what? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 25 

HENSLOWE 

As there has been, eh? 

"See-saw ! Margery Daw ! 
She sold her bed to He upon straw." 
And so — ^poor Margery! Though she counts me an 
enemy — poor Margery! 

SHAKESPEARE 

What help for Margery — and her Jack ? 

HENSLOWE 

None, friend, in Stratford. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Do I not know it? 

HENSLOWE 

Then — tell Margery! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Deaf, deaf I 

HENSLOWE 

Not if you tell her how all heels in London 
(And the Queen dances!) 
So trip to the Stratford tune that I hot-haste 
Am sent to fetch the fiddler — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Man, is it true? 
True that the Queen — ? 

HENSLOWE 

I say — tell Margery! 
What ! is she a woman, a wife, and will not further her 
man ? I say to you — tell Margery, as I tell you — • 



26 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

You do? 

HENSLOWE 

I do. I do tell you that if you can come away with 
us now with your 'Dream' in your pocket, and teach 
it to us and learn of us while you teach, and strike 
London in time for the Queen's birthday — I tell you 
and I tell her. Jack's a made man. See what Margery 
says to that, and give me the answer, stay or come, as 
I pass here to-night ! And now let me go ; for if I do 
not soon whip my company clear of apple- juice and 
apple-bloom, clear, that is to say, of Stratford wine 
and Stratford women, we shall not pass here to-night. 

IHe goes out."] 



SHAKESPEARE 

{^Calling.'] 



To-night ! 

Anne ! Anne ! 

[He walks up and down.'] 

Oh, to be one of them to-night on the silver road— to 
smell the steaming frost and listen to men's voices and 
the ring of iron on the London road! 

ICalUng.l 
Anne! 

ANNE 

lEntering.l 
You called ? He's gone ? You're angry ? Oh, not now, 
No anger now; for, Will, to-night in the sky, 
Our sky, a new star shines. 

SHAKESPEARE 

What's that? You know? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 27 

ANNE 

I know, and oh, my heart sings. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Anne, dear Anne, 
You know? No frets? You wish it? Oh, dear Anne, 
How did you guess and know? 

ANNE 

My mother told me. 

SHAKESPEARE 

She heard us? Did she hear — theyVe read the play, 
And the Queen's asked for me! London, Anne! 

London ! 
I'll send you London home, my lass, by the post — 
Such frocks and fancies! London! London, Anne! 
And you, you know? and speed me hence? By God, 
That's my own wife at last, all gold to me 
And goodness! Anne, be better to me still 
And help me hence to-night ! 

ANNE 

It dips, it dies, 
A night-light, Mother, and no star. I grope 
Giddily in the dark. 

SHAKESPEARE 

What did she tell you? 

ANNE 

No matter. Oh, it earns not that black look. 
London? the Queen? I'll help you, oh, be sure! 
Too glad to see you glad. 



28 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Anne, it's good-bye 
To Stratford till the game's won. 

ANNE 

What care I 
So you are satisfied? The farm must go — 
That's little— 

SHAKESPEARE 

Must it go? 

ANNE 

Dreamer, how else 
Shall we two live in London? 

SHAKESPEARE 

We, do you say? 
They'd have me travel with them — a rough life — ■ 

ANNE 

I care not! 

SHAKESPEARE 

— and you're ailing. 

ANNE 

Better soon. 

SHAKESPEARE 

You'll miss your mother. 

ANNE 

Mothers everywhere 
Will help a girl. I'm strong. 

SHAKESPEARE 

It will not do ! 
I have my world to learn, and learn alone. 
I will not dangle at your apron-strings. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 29 

ANNE 

I'll be no tie. I'll be your follower 

And scarce your wife; but let me go with you! 

SHAKESPEARE 

ilf you could see but once, once, with my eyes! 

ANNE 

Will ! let me go with you ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I tell you — no! 
Leave me to go my way and rule my life 
After my fashion ! I'll not lean on you 
Because you're seven years wiser. 

ANNE 

That too, O God! 

SHAKESPEARE 

And if I hurt you — for I know I do, 

I'm not so rapt — think of me, if you can, 

As a man stifled that wildly throws his arms, 

Raking the air for room — for room to breathe, 

And so strikes unaware, unwillingly, 

His lover! 

ANNE 

I could sooner think of you 
Asleep, and I beside you with the child, 
And all this passion ended, as it must. 
In quiet graves ; for we have been such lovers 
As there's no room for in the human air 
And daylight side of the grass. What shall I do? 
And how live on? Why did you marry me? 



30 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

You know the why of that. 

ANNE 

Too well we know it, 
I and the child. You have well taught this fool 
That thought a heart of dreams, a loving heart, 
A soul, a self resigned, could better please 
Than the blind flesh of a woman ; for God knows 
Your self drew me, the folded man in you, 
Not, not the boy-husk. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Yet the same God knows 
When folly was, you willed it first, not L 

ANNE 

Old! Old as Adam! and untrue, untrue! 
Why did you come to me at Shottery, 
Out of your way, so often? laugh with me 
Apart, and answer for me as of right. 
As if you knew me better (ah, it was sweet!) 
Than my own brothers? And on Sunday eves 
You'd wait and walk with me the long way home 
From church, with me alone, the foot-path way, 
Across the fields where wild convolvulus 
Strangles the corn — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Strangles the corn indeed! 

ANNE 

— and still delay me talking at the stile, 
Long after curfew, under the risen moon. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 31 

Why did you come? Why did you stay with me, 
To make me love, to make me think you loved me? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Oh, you were easy, cheap, you flattered me. 

ANNE 
{Crying out."] 
I did not. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Why, did you not look at me 
As I were God ? And for a while I liked it. 
It fed some weed in me that since has withered ; 
For now I like it not, nor like you for it! 

ANNE 

That is your fate, you change, you must ever be 

changing, 
You climb from a boy to a man, from a man to a god, 
And the god looks back on the man with a smile, and 

the man on the boy with wonder; 
But I, I am woman for ever : I change not at all. 
You hold out your hands to me — heaven: ybu turn 

from me — hell; 
But neither the hell nor the heaven can change me: 

I love you : I change not at all. 

SHAKESPEARE 

All this leads not to London, and for London 
I am resolved : if not to-night — 

ANNE 

To-night ? 



32 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

As soon as maybe. When the child is born — 
When will the child be born? 

ANNE 

Soon, soon — 

SHAKESPEARE 

How soon? 

ANNE 

I think — I do not know — 

SHAKESPEARE 

In March? 

ANNE 

Who knows? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did you not tell me March? 

ANNE 

Easter — 



That's May! 



SHAKESPEARE 

It should be March. 

ANNE 

ilt — should be — March — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Why, Anne? 

ANNE 

Stay with me longer! Wait till Whitsuntide, 
Till June, till summer comes, and if, when you see 
Your own son, still you'll leave us, why, go then! 
But sure, you will not go. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 33 

SHAKESPEARE 

Summer? Why summer? 
It should be spring, not summer — 

ANNE 

ril not bear 
These questions, like coarse fingers, prying out 
My secrets. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Secrets ? 

ANNE 

Secrets? I? IVe none — 
I never meant — I know not why the word 
Came to me, "secret.'* Yet you're all secret thoughts 
And plans you do not share. Why should not I 
Be secret, if I choose ? But see, I'll tell you 
All, all — some other time — ^were there indeed 
A thing to tell — 

SHAKESPEARE 

When will the child be born? 

ANNE 

If it were — June? My mother said to-day 
It might be June — July — This woman's talk 
Is not for you — 

SHAKESPEARE 

July? 

ANNE 

Oh, I must laugh 
Because you look and look — don't look at me! 
June! May! I swear it's May! I said the spring, 
And May is still the girlhood of the year. 



34 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

July! A round year since you came to me! 
Then — when you came to me, in haste, afraid, 
AH tears, and clung to me, and white-lipped swore 
You had no friend but Avon if I failed you, 
It was a lie? 

ANNE 

Don't look at me! 

SHAKESPEARE 

No need? 
You forced me with a lie ? 

ANNE 

Now there is — ^now! 

SHAKESPEARE 

You locked me in this prison with a lie? 

ANNE 

I loved you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

And you lied to me — 

ANNE 

To hold you. 
I couldn't lose you. I was mad with pain. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Are you so weak, 

So candle-wavering, that a gust of pain 

Could snuff out honour? 

ANNE 

'Ware this hurricane 
Of pain ! The deserts heed it not, nor rocks, 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 35 

Nor the perpetual sea; but oh, the fields 

Where barley grows and small beasts hide, they fear — 

And haggard woods that feel its violent hand 

Entangled in their hair and wrestling, shriek 

Crashing to ruin. What shall their pensioners 

Do now, the rustling mice, the anemones, 

The whisking squirrels, ivies, nightingales, 

The hermit bee whose summer goods were stored 

In a south bank? How shall the small things stand 

Against the tempest, against the cruel sun 

That stares them, homeless, out of countenance, 

Through the day's heats? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Coward ! They see the sun 
Though they die seeing, and the wider view, 
The vast horizons, the amazing skies 
Undreamed before. 

ANNE 

I cannot see so far. 
I want my little loves, I want my home. 
My life is rooted up, my prop is gone. 
And like a vine I lie upon the ground. 
Muddied and broken. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I could be sorry for you 
Under the heavy hand of God or man 
But your own hand has slain yourself and me. 
Woman, the shame of it, to trap me thus, 
Knowing I never loved you! 



36 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ANNE 

Oh, for a month — 
In the spring, in the long grass, under the apple-trees — 

SHAKESPEARE 

I never loved you. 

ANNE 

Think, when I hurt my hand 
With the wild rose, it was then you said "Dear Anne !" 

SHAKESPEARE 

I have forgotten. 

ANNE 

On Midsummer Eve — 
There was a dream about a wood you told me, 
Me — not another — 

SHAKESPEARE 

I was drunk with dreams 
That night. 

ANNE 

That night, that night you loved me, Will! 
Oh, never look at me and say — that night. 
Under the holy moon, there was no love ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

You knew it was not love. 

ANNE 

O God, I knew. 
And would not know ! You never came again. 
I hoped. I prayed. I hoped. I loved you so. 
You never came. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 37 

And must I go to you? I was ashamed. 
Yet in the wood I waited, waited, Will, 
Night after night I waited, waited, Will, 
Till shame itself was swallowed up in pain, 
In pain of waiting, and — I went to you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

That lie upon those loving lips? 

ANNE 

That lie. 

SHAKESPEARE 

There was no child? 

ANNE 

The hope, the hope of children, 
To bind you to me — a true hope to hold you — 
No lie — a little lie — I loved you so — 
Scarcely a lie — a promise to come true 
Of gifts between us and a love to come. 

SHAKESPEARE 

You're mad! You're mad! 

ANNE 

I was mad. I am sane. 
I am blind Samson, shaking down the house 
Of torment on myself as well as you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

What gain was there? What gain? 

ANNE 

What gain but you ? 
The sight of your face and the sound of your foot on 
the stair. 



38 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

And your casual word to a stranger — "This is my 

wife!" 
For the touch of my hand on your arm, as a right, 

when we walked with the neighbours : 
For the son, for the son on my heart, with your smile 

and your frown: 
For the loss of my name in the name that you gave 

when you said to him — "Mother! your mother!" 
For your glance at me over his head when he brought 

us his toys or his tears : 
Have pity! Have pity! Have pity! for these things 

I did it. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Words! Words! You lied to me. Go your own 

road ! 
I know you not. 

ANNE 

But I, but I know you. 
Have I not learned my god's face? Have I not seen 
The great dreams cloud it, as the ships of the sky 
Darken the river? Has not the wind struck home. 
The following chill wind that stirs all straws 
Of omen? You're to be great, God pity you! 
I'm your poor village woman ; but I know 
What you must learn and learn, and shriek to Grod 
To spare you learning, if you will be great. 
Singing to men and women across fields 
Of years, and hearing answer as they reap. 
Afar, the centuried fields, "He knew, he knew!" 
How will they listen to you — voice that cries 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 39 

"Right's right! Wrong's wrong! For every sin a 

stone ! 
"Ye shall not plead to any god or man — 
" *I flinched because the pain was very great/ 
" *I fell because the burden bore me down,' 
" ^Hungry, I stole.' " O boy, ungrown, at judgment, 
How will they listen? What? I lied? Oh, blind! 
When I, your own, show you my heart of hearts, 
A book for you to read all women by. 
Blindly you turn my page with — "Here are lies !" 

SHAKESPEARE 

Subtle enough — and glitter may be gold 

In women's eyes — ^you say so — though to a man, 

Boy rather (boy, you called me) lies are lies, 

Base money, though you rub 'em till they shine, 

111 money to buy love with; but — I care not! 

So be at ease! My love's not confiscate. 

For none was yours to forfeit. Faith indeed, 

A weakling trust is gone, for though you irked me 

I thought you honest and so bore much from you — 

Your jealous-glancing eye, officious hand 

Meddling my papers, fool's opinion given 

Unasked when strangers spoke with me, and laughter 

Suddenly checked as if you feared a blow 

As a dog does — it made me mad! 

ANNE 

Go on! 

SHAKESPEARE 

For when did I use you ill? 

ANNE 

Go on! 



40 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

What need? 
Airs in a word — ^your ever-presence here 
As if you'd naught in life to do but watch me — •- 

ANNE 

Go on! 

SHAKESPEARE 

All this, I say, I bore, because at heart 
I did believe you loved me. Well — it's gone! 
And I go with it — free, a free man, free ! 
Anne ! for that word I could forgive you all 
And go from you in peace. 

ANNE 

[Catching at his arm.l 
You shall not go ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Shall not? This burr — how impudent it clings! 

ANNE 

You have not heard me — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Let me go, I say! 
My purse, my papers — 

ANNE 

Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Talk to the walls, 
For I hear nothing! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 41 

ANNE 

Why, a murderess 
Has respite in my case — and I — and I — 

What have I done but love you, when all's said? 
You will not leave me now, now when that lie 
Is certain truth at last, and in me sleeps 
Like God's forgiveness? For I felt it stir 
When you were angry — I was angry too, 
My fault, all mine — but I was sick and faint 
And frightened, so I railed, because no word 
Matched with the strong need in me suddenly 
For gentlest looks and your beloved arms 
About this body changed and shaking so; 
But why I knew not. But my rnother knew 
And told me. 

SHAKESPEARE 

wise mother ! 

ANNE 

Will, it's true ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Practice makes perfect, as we wrote at school ! 

ANNE 

1 swear to you — 

SHAKESPEARE 

As then you swore to me. 
Not twice, not twice, my girl! 

ANNE 

O God, God Son! 
Pitiful God! If there be other lives. 
As I have heard him say, as his books say, 



42 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

In other bodies, for Your Mother's sake 

And all she knows (God, ask her what she knows!) 

Let me not be a woman ! Let me be 

Some twisting worm on a hook, or fish they catch 

And fling again to catch another year, 

Or otter trapped and broiled in the sun three days, 

Or lovely bird whose living wing men tear 

From its live body, or of Italy 

Some peasant's drudge-horse whipped upon its eyes, 

Or let me as a heart-burst, screaming hare 

Be wrenched in two by slavering deaths for sport; 

But let me not again be cursed a woman 

Surrendered to the mercy of her man ! 

{She sinks down in a crouching heap by the hearth. There 
has been a sound of many voices drawing nearer^ 
and as she ceases speaking, the words of a song be- 
come clear."} 

THE PLAYERS 

{Singing.} 
Come with us to London, 

Folly, come away! 
We'll make your fortune 
On a summer day. 
Leave your sloes and mulberries! 
There are riper fruits than these. 
In London, in London, 
Oh, London Town! 
For winds will blow 
And barley grow 
Without you, without you, 
And the world get on without you — 
Oh, London Town! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 43 

{The voices drop to a low hum. Henslowe thrusts his 
head in at the window.'] 

HENSLOWE 

The sun's down. The sky's as yellow as a London 
fog. Well, what's it to be ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

London ! The future in a golden fog ! 

HENSLOWE 

Come then! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'll fetch my bundle. Wait for me! What voices? 

HENSLOWE 

The rest of us, the people of the plays. 
We're all here waiting for you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Come in, all ! all 

HENSLOWE 

Does your wife say to us — "Come in!"? 

SHAKESPEARE 

What wife? 

[He hurries up the stairs and disappears."] 

HENSLOWE 

{Opening the outer door.] 
May we come in? 

ANNE 

You heard him. 

HENSLOWE 

We ask you. 



44 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ANNE 

It's his house. 

HENSLOWE 

\_Humming.1 

While fortune waits 
Within the gates 
Of London, of London — 
He must be quick ! 

ANNE 

Am / to tell him so? 

HENSLOWE 

The new moon's up and reaping in a sky- 
Like corn — ^that's frost ! A bitter travelling night 
Before us — 

ANNE 

[Going to the window.'\ 
So it is. 

HENSLOWE 

Not through the glass! 
You'll buy ill luck of the moon. 

ANNE 

I bought ill fortune 
Long months ago under the shifty moon, 
I saw her through the midnight glass of the air 
Milky with light, when trees my casement were. 
And little twigs the leads that held my pane. 
I'm out of luck for ever. 

HENSLOWE 

Did I not tell you you feared your fortune? But 
there are some in the company can tell you a better, if 
you'll let 'em in. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 45 

THREE PLAYERS IN MASKS 

[Tapping at the window."] 
Let us in ! Let us in ! Let us in ! 

ANNE 

I will not let you in. Wait for your fellow 
On the high road ! He'll come to you soon enough 
{She turns from them and seats herself by the fire."] 

A PLAYER 

[Dressed as a king, over Henslowe's shoulder.] 
Are we never to come in? It's as cold as charity 
since the sun set. 

ANNE 

It's no warmer here. 

A CHILD 

{Poking his head under the Player's arm.] 
I can't feel my fingers. 

[Anne looks at him. Her face changes.] 

ANNE 

If the fire warms you, you may warm yourselves. 

[The Players stream in.] 
It does not warm me. Look ! It cannot warm me. 
[She thrusts her hand into the Uame.] 

HENSLOWE 

God's sake! 

[He pulls her hack. The Players stare and whisper 

together.] 

ANNE 

Eyes! Needle eyes! Why do you stare and point? 



46 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Like you I would have warmed myself. Vain, vain! 

It's a strange hearth. You players are the first 

It ever warmed or welcomed. Charity ? 

Who said it — "Cold as charity" ? That's love ! 

But there's no love here. Baby, stay away! 

You'll freeze less out in churchyard night than here, 

For here's not even charity. 

THE CHILD 

{Warming his hands.'] 
I'm not a baby. I'm nearly eleven. I've played chil- 
dren's parts for years. I'm getting warmer. Are you? 

ANNE 

No. 

CHILD 

I like this house. I'd like to stay here. I suppose 
there are things in that cupboard? 

THE KING 

iOverhearing.'] 
Now, now! 

CHILD 

That's my father. He's a king this week. He's 
only a duke as a rule. Are there apples in that cup- 
board? Will you give me one? 
[Anne goes to the cupboard and takes out an apple.] 

ANNE 

Will you give me a kiss? 

CHILD 

For my apple? 

ANNE 

No, for love. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 47 

CHILD 

I don't love you. 

ANNE 

For luck, then. 

CHILD 

You told him you'd got no luck. 

ANNE 

Won't you give me a kiss ? 

CHILD 

If you like. Don't hold me so tight. Is it true 
you've no luck ? Shall I tell your fortune ? 

ANNE 

Can you? 

CHILD 

O yes! I've watched the Fates do it in the new 
play. It's Orpheus and — it's a long name. But she's 
his lost wife. Give me a handkerchief ! That's for a 
grey veil. 

[Posing."] 

Now say to me — "Who are you ?" 

ANNE 

Who are you? 

CHILD 

[Posing."] 
Fate! Now you must say — "Whose fate?" 

ANNE 

Whose? 



4S WILL SHAKESPEARE 

CHILD 

Oh, then I lift the veil and you scream. 

{Stamping his foot.l 
Scream ! 

ANNE 

Why, baby? 

CHILD 

[Frowning.'l 
At my dreadful face. 

[But he begins to laugh in spite of himself. '\ 

ANNE 
[Her face hidden."] 
Oh, child! Oh, child! 

CHILD 

That's right! That's the way she cries in the play. 
You see the man goes down to hell to find his wife, 
and the Fates show her what's going to happen while 
she's waiting for him. She's in hell already, waiting 
and waiting. It takes years to travel through hell. 
That's her talking to the old man in rags and a crown. 

ANNE 

Who's he? 

CHILD 

Oh, he's a poor old king whose daughters beat him. 
He isn't in this play. Well, when Orpheus gets to hell 
— I lead him there, you know — 

ANNE 

A babe in hell — a babe in hell — 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 49 

CHILD 

I'm the little god of love. I wear a crown of roses 
and wings. They do tickle. Soon I'll be too big. So 
he and I go to the three Fates to get back his wife. 
She isn't pretty in that act. She's all white and dead 
round her eyes — like you. 

ANNE 

Does he find her? 

CHILD 

After he sings his beautiful song he does. Every- 
body has to listen when he sings. Even the big dog lies 
down. Your husband made us a nice catch about it 
yesterday. I like your husband. I'm glad he's coming 
with us. Are you coming with us ? 

ANNE 

No. 

CHILD 

It's a pity. If you were a man you could act in the 
company. But women can't act. Even Orpheus' wife 
is a boy really. So are the three Fates. They're 
friends of mine. Would you like to talk to them, the 
way we do in the play ? Come on ! I go first, you see. 
You must say just what I tell you. 

IHe takes her hands and pulls her to her feet. She stares, 
bewildered, for the room has grown dim. The dying 
fire shines upon the shifting, shadowy figures of the 
Players. The crowd grows larger every moment and 
is thickest at the foot of the stairs. Shakespeare is 
seen coming down them.^ 

ANNE 

The room's so full. I'm frightened. Who are all 
these people? 



50 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

CHILD 

Hush ! We're in hell. These are all the dead people. 
We bring 'em to life. 

ANNE 

Who? We? 

CHILD 

I and the singer. Look, there's your husband coming 
down the stairs ! That's just the way Orpheus comes 
down into hell. 

ANNE 

Will! Will! 

CHILD 

Hush ! You mustn't talk. 

ANNE 

But it's all dreams — it's all dreams. 

r CHILD 

It's the players. 

SHAKESPEARE 

{Among the shadows.'\ 
Let me pass ! 

THE SHADOWS 

Pay toll! 

SHAKESPEARE 

How, pay it? 

A SHADOW 

Tell my story? 

ANOTHER 

And mine! 

ANOTHER 

And mine! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 51 

ANOTHER 

And mine! 

A ROMAN WOMAN 

Pluck back my dagger first and tell my story! 

A DROWNED GIRL 

Oh, listen, listen, listen, I've forgotten my own story. 
It*s a very sad one. Remember for me ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I will remember. Let me pass ! 

A TROJAN WOMAN 

[Kissing him.l 
Kerens pay. 

A VENETIAN 

I died of love. 

THE TROJAN WOMAN 

Kiss me and tell my story ! 

A MOOR 

Dead lips, dead lips! 

A YOUNG MAN 

This is how Judas kissed. 

A QUEEN 

My son was taken from me. Tell my story. 

ANOTHER 

And mine! 

ANOTHER 

And mine! 

A YOUNG MAN 

That son am I ! 



52 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

TWO CHILDREN 
I— I— 

A SOLDIER 

I killed a king. 

A CROWNED SHADOW 

He killed me while I slept. 

THE SHADOWS 

You shall not pass until you tell our story! 

A GIRL DRESSED AS A BOY 

I lived in a wood and laughed. Sing you my laughter 
When the sun shone ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'll sing it. Singing I go, 

What shall I find after the song is over? 

What shall I find after the way is clear? 

AN OLD MAN, A JEW 

Gold and gold and gold — 

A CLOWN 

And a grave untended — 

A MAN IN BLACK 

Heartbreak — 

TWO COUSINS 

A friend or two — 

A ROMAN WITH LAURELS 

Oh, sing my story 

Before I had half-way climbed to the nearest star 

My ladder broke. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 53 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'll tell all time that story. 

THE ROMAN 

The stars are dark, seen close. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'll say it. 

THE ROMAN 

Pass! 

AN EGYPTIAN 

[Holding a goblet."] 

He shall not pass. Drink ! There are pearls in the 
cup. 

A GIRL, A VERONESE 
[Taking it from her.] 



A MAN 

[With a wand.l 

THE KING IN RAGS 

A NUN 

A DRUNKARD 



No — sleep ! 

Dreams ! 
Frenzy ! 
Sacrament ! 
A jest! 

A ROMAN WIFE 

Here's coals for bread. 

THE EGYPTIAN 

[A man in armour has Hung his arm about her neck,] 

Eat, drink and pass again 
To the lost sunshine and the passionate nights, 
And tell the world our story 1 



54 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Let me go ! 

ALL THE SHADOWS 

Never, never, never ! To the end of time we follow, 
Follow, follow, follow! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Threads and floating wisps 
Of being, how they fasten like a cloud 
Of gnats upon me, not to be shaken off 
Unsatisfied — 

THE SHADOWS 

Sing ! Sing ! 

[There is a strain of music the crowd hides Shakespeare: 
the three masked players have drifted free of the 
turmoil.'] 

CHILD 
IDelighted.'] 
He does it quite as well as Orpheus. 

ANNE 

Who are these dreams? 

CHILD 

The people of the plays. And there are the Fates 
at last! That's the end of my part. Now you must 
talk to them till your husband comes. He comes when 
you scream. 

{He picks up his bow and runs away."] 

ANNE 

Come back ! Stay by me ! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 55 

CHILD 

ILaughing.'] 
Play your part alone. 
IHe is lost in the crowd. The Masks have drawn nfar. 
The first is small and closely veiled and carries the 
distaff. The second is tall: part of her face shows 
white: her hands are empty. The third is bowed and 
crowned: she carries the shears.'\ 

ANNE 

These are all dreams or I am mad. Who are you? 

FIRST MASK 

His fate. I hold the thread. 

ANNE 

I'll see you ! 

FIRST MASK 

No! 

[As she retreats the Second Mask takes the distaff from 

her.l 



I tangle it. 
Who are you? 
Fate! his fate! 



SECOND MASK 

ANNE 
SECOND MASK 



ANNE 

Drop the bright mask and let me see I 

{The Second Mask drops her veil and shows the face of 

a dark lady.l 

It needs not ! 
I knew, 1 knew! Barren the ground beneath, 
No flowers, no fruit, spent arrows — : 



56 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

IThe Second Mask makes way for the Third who takes 
the tangle from her. The Second Mask glides away."] 

Not the shears! 

THIRD MASK 

^Winding the thread."] 
Not yet ! 

ANNE 

Who are you? 

THIRD MASK 

Fate! his fate! 

ANNE 

A crown! 
My snake should know its fellow — is it so? 
{The mask is lifted and reveals the face of Elisabeth."] 
I do not fear the Queen — 

THIRD MASK 

Take back the thread ! 

{She gives the distaff to the First Mask who has reap- 
peared beside her and glides away.] 

ANNE 

But you I fear, O shrinking fate ! what fate ? 

What first and last fate ? Show me your face, I say ! 

{She tears off the mask. The face revealed is the face 
of Anne. She screams.] 

Myself ! I saw myself ! Will ! Will ! 

{The Child kneeling at the hearth stirs the fire and a 
bright flame shoots up that lights the whole room. 
It is empty save for the few players gathering to- 
gether their bundles and Shakespeare who has hurried 
to Anne. His hand, gripping her shoulder, steadies 
her as she sways.] 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 57 

SHAKESPEARE 

Still railing? 

CHILD 

{To his father.'] 

She's a poor frightened lady and she cried. I like 
her. 

ANNE 

Gone! Gone! Where are they! Call them back! 
I saw — 

SHAKESPEARE 

What folly ! These are players and my friends ; 
You could have given them food at least and served 
them. 

ANNE 

I saw — I saw — 

HENSLOWE 

[Coming up to them,"] 

So, are you ready ? The moon is high : we must be 
going. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'll follow instantly. 

[The Players trail out by twos and threes. They pass 
the window and repass it on the further side of the 
hedge. They are a Mack, fantastic frieze upon the 
yellow, winter sky. Henslowe goes first: the king's 
crown is crooked, and the child is riding on his hack: 
the masks come last.] 

THE PLAYERS 

[Singing.] 
Come away to London, 
Folly, come away! 



58 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

You'll make your fortune 

Thrice in a day. 
Paddocks leave and winter byres, 
London has a thousand spires, 

A-chiming, a-rhyming, 

Oh, London Town ! 

The snow will fall 

And cover all 

Without you, without you, 
And the world get on without you — 

Oh, London Town 1 

{Shakespeare goes hurriedly to the table and picks up his 

books.'\ 

ANNE 

Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

For your needs 
You have the farm. Farewell ! 

ANNE 

[Catching at his arm."] 
For pity's sake ! 
I'm so beset with terrors not my own — 
What have you loosed upon me? I'll not be left 
In this black house, this kennel of chained grief. 
This ghost-run. Take me with you! No, stay by 

me! 
These are but dreams of evil. Shall we not wake 
Drowsily in a minute? Oh, bless'd waking 
To peace and sunshine and no evil done! 
Count out the minute — 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 59 

SHAKESPEARE 

If ever I forget 
The evil done me, I'll forget the spring, 
And Avon, and the blue ways of the sky, 
And my own mother's face. 

ANNE 

Do I say "forget"? 
I say "remember"! When you've staked all, all, 
Upon your one throw — when you've lost — remem- 
ber! 
And done the evilest thing you would not do. 
Self-forced to the vile wrong you would not do, 
Me in that hour remember I 

SHAKESPEARE 

Let me go ! 

ANNE 

[She is on the ground, clinging to him."] 

Remember! See, I do not pray "forgive"! 
Forgive? Forgiving is forgetting — no. 
Remember me ! Remember, when your sun 
Blazes the noon down, that my sun is set, 
Extinct and cindered in a bitter sea. 
And warm me with a thought. For we are bound 
Closer than love or chains or marriage binds : 
We went by night and each in other's heart 
Sowed tares, sowed tears. Husband, when harvest 

comes, 
Of all your men and women I alone 
Can give you comfort, for you'll reap my pain 
As I your loss. What other knows our need? 



6o WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Dear hands, remember, when you hold her, thus, 
Close, close — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Let go my hands ! 

ANNE 

— and when she turns 
To stone, to a stone, to an unvouchsafing stone 
Under your clutch — 

SHAKESPEARE 

You rave! 

ANNE 

— ^loved hands, remember 
Me unloved then, and how my hands held you! 
And when her face — for I am prophecy — 
When her lost face, the woman I am not. 
Stares from the page you toil upon, thus, thus, 
In a glass of tears, remember then that thus, 
No other way, 

I see your face between my work and me, 
Always ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Make end and let me go ! 

ANNE 

iShe has risen.} 
Why, go! 
But mock me not with any "Let me go" ! 
I do not hold you. Ah, but when you're old 
(You will be old one day, as I am old 
Already in my heart), too weary-old 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 6i 

For love, hate, pity, anything but peace, 
When the long race, O straining breast ! is won, 
And the bright victory drops to your outstretched 

hand, 
A windfall apple, not worth eating, then 
Come back to me — 

SHAKESPEARE 

lAt the door.'] 
Farewell ! 

ANNE 

— when all your need 
Is hands to serve you and a breast to die on, 
Come back to me — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Never in any world! 
{He goes out as the last figure passes the window^ and 

disappears.] 

THE players' voices 

[Dying away.] 
For snow will fall 
And cover all 
Without you, without you — 
IThe words are lost.] 

SHAKESPEARE 

{Joyfully.] 
Ah! London Town! 
£IIe is seen an instant, a silhouette with outstretched, 
arms. Then he, too, disappears and there is a long 
silence. A cold wind blows in through the open door. 
Tfie room is quite dark and the fire has fallen t6\ 
ashes.] 



62 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ANNE 
{Crying out suddenly."] 
The years — the years before me! 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

ICalling.'] 
Anne! Where's Anne? 

[She comes in at the side door.] 
Anne! Anne! Where are you? Why, what do 
you here, 

In the cold, in the dark, and all alone? 

ANNE 

I wait. 

The Curtain Falls. 



ACT II. 

Scene I. 

lA room at the Palace. Elisabeth sits at a working table. 
She is upright, vigorous, with an ivory white skin 
and piercing eyes. Her hair is dark red and stiffly 
dressed. She is old, as an oak or a cliffy or a cathedral 
is old — there is no frailty of age in her. Her gestures 
are measured, she moves very little, and frowns 
oftener than she smiles, but her smile, when it does 
come, is kindly. Her voice is strong, rather harsh, but 
clear. She speaks her words like a scholar, but her 
manner is that of a woman of the world, shrewd and 
easy. Her dress is a black-green brocade, stiff with 
gold and embroidered with coloured stones. Beside 
her stands Henslowe, ten years older, stouter and 
more prosperous. In the background Mary Fitton, a 
woman of twenty-six, sits at the virginals, fingering 
out a tune very faintly and lightly. She is taller than 
Elisabeth, pale, with black hair, a smiling mouth and 
brilliant eyes. She is quick and graceftd as a cat, 
and her voice is the voice of a singer, low and full. 
She wears a magnificent black and white dress with 
many pearls. A red rose is tucked behind her ear.} 

ELIZABETH 

Money, money! Always more money! Henslowe, 
you're a leech ! And I'm a Gammer Gurton to let my- 
self be bled. Let the public pay I 

63 



64 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

HENSLOWE 

Madam, they'll do that fast enough if we may call 
ourselves Your Majesty's Players. 

ELIZABETH 

No, no, you're not yet proven. What do you give 
me ? Good plays enough, but what great play ? What 
has England, what have I, to match against them when 
they talk to me of their Tasso, their Petrarch, their 
Rabelais — of Divine Comedies and the plays of Spain? 
Are we to climb no higher than the Germans with their 
'Ship of Fools'? 

HENSLOWE 

* The Faery Queen ' ? 

ELIZABETH 

Unfinished. 

HENSLOWE 

Green — Peele — Kyd — ^Webster — 

ELIZABETH 

Stout English names — not names for all the world. 
I will pay you no more good English pounds a year and 
fib to my treasurer to account for them. You head a 
deputation, do you? You would call yourselves the 
Queen's Players, and mount a crown on your curtains ? 
Give me a great play then — a royal play — a play to set 
against France and Italy and Spain, and you can have 
your patent. 

HENSLOWE 

There's * Tamburlaine ' ! 

ELIZABETH 

A boy's glory, not a man's. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 65 

HENSLOWE 

* Faust ' and * The Jew of Malta * ! 

ELIZABETH 

I know them. 

HENSLOWE 

He'll do greater things yet. 

ELIZABETH 

Do you believe that, Henslowe? 

HENSLOWE 

No, Madam. 

ELIZABETH 

Then why do you lie to me? 

HENSLOWE 

Madam, I mark time. I have my man ; but he is not 
yet ripe. 

ELIZABETH 

How long have you served me, Henslowe? 

HENSLOWE 

Twelve years. 

ELIZABETH 

How often have you come to me in those twelve 
years? 

HENSLOWE 

Four times, Madam! 

ELIZABETH 

Have I helped or hindered? 

HENSLOWE 

I confess it. Madam, I have lived on your wits. 



66 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ELIZABETH 

Then who's your man? 

HENSLOWE 

You'll not trust me. He has done little before the 
world. 

ELIZABETH 

Shakespeare ? 

HENSLOWE 

Madam, you know everything. Will you see him? 
He and Marlowe are among our petitioners. 

ELIZABETH 

H'm ! the Stratford boy ! I have not forgotten. 

HENSLOWE 

Who could have promised better ? He came to town 
like a conqueror. He took us all with his laughter. 
You yourself, Madam — 

ELIZABETH 

Yes, make us laugh and you may pick all pockets! 
He helped you to pick mine. 

HENSLOWE 

So far good. But he aims no higher. Yet what he 
could do if he would! I have a sort of love of him. 
Madam. I found him : I taught him : I have daughters 
enough but no son. I have wrestled with him like 
Jacob at Peniel, but when I think to conquer he 
tickles my rib and I laugh. That's his weapon, Mad- 
am ! With his laughter he locks the door of his heart 
against every man. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 67 

ELIZABETH 

And every woman? 

HENSLOWE 

They say — no, Madam! 

ELIZABETH 

Then we must find her. 

HENSLOWE 

[With a glance at Mary Fitton.'] 
They say she is found already. But a court lady 
— ^and a player! It's folly, Madam! Now Marlowe 
would shrug his shoulder and go elsewhere; but 
Shakespeare — there is about him in little and great a 
certain dogged and damnable constancy that wrecks 
all. If he cannot have the moon for his supper, he 
will starve, Madam, whatever an old fool says to him. 

ELIZABETH 

Then, Henslowe, we must serve him up the moon. 
Mary! 

MARY 

[Rising and coming down to them."] 
Madam? 

ELIZABETH 

Could you hear us? 

MARY 

I was playing the new song that the Earl set for 
you. 

ELIZABETH 

For me? But you heard? 



68 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 

Something of the talk, Madam! 

ELIZABETH 

You go to all the plays, do you not? Which is the 
coming man, Mary, Shakespeare or Marlowe. 

MARY 

I£ you ask me. Madam, I'm all for the cobbler's son. 

HENSLOWE 

Mistress Fitton should give us a sound reason if 
she have it, but she has none. 

MARY 

Only that I don't know Mr. Marlowe, and I know 
my little Shakespeare by heart. I'm an Athenian — 
I'm always asking for nfew tunes. 

ELIZABETH 

Which is Shakespeare ? The youngster like a smok- 
ing lamp, all aflare? 

MARY 

No, Madam! That's Marlowe. Shakespeare's a 
lesser man. 

HENSLOWE 

A lesser man? Marlowe the lamp, say you? 
He's conflagration, he's "Armada!" flashed 
From Kent to Cornwall! But this lesser man, 
He's the far world the beacons can outflare 
One little hour, but, when their flame dies down, 
High o'er the embers in the deep of night 
Behold the star! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 69 

ELIZABETH 

I forget if ever I saw him. 

HENSLOWE 

Madam, if ever you saw him, you would not 
forget — 
A small, a proud head, like an Arab Christ, 
And noble, madman's fingers, never still — 
The face still though, mouth hid, the nostril wide, 
And eyes like voices calling, shrill and sad, 
•Borne on hot winds from fairyland or hell; 
Yet round the heavy lids a score of lines 
All criss-cross crinkle like a score of laughs 
That he has scribbled hastily down himself 
With his quick fingers. No, not tall — 

ELIZABETH 



But a man ! 




Like other men. 


MARY 


Ah? 


ELIZABETH 


It was easy. 


MARY 


Tell! 


ELIZABETH 



MARY 

He came like a boy to apples. Marlowe now — 

ELIZABETH 

More than a man, less than a man, but not 

As yet a man then ? Well, I'll see your Shakespeare : 

Marlowe — some other time. 



70 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

HENSLOWE 

I'll fetch him to you. 

[Henslowe goes out.l 

ELIZABETH 

To you, Mary — to you! 

MARY 

Madam, spare me! It's a stiff instrument and 
once, I think, has been ill-tuned. 

ELIZABETH 

Tune it afresh! 

MARY 

You wish that, Madam? 

ELIZABETH 

1 wish it. Marlowe can wait — and Pembroke. 

MARY 

Madam ? 

ELIZABETH 

I am blind, deaf, dumb, so long as you practise 
your new tune. But the Earl of Pembroke goes to 
Ireland. 

MARY 

He's an old glove. Madam. 

ELIZABETH 

Young or old, not for your wearing. Strip your 
hand and finger your new tune! 

MARY 

Now, Madam? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 71 

ELIZABETH 

Why not? Why do I dress you and keep you at 
court? Here's Spain in the ante-room and France 
on the stairs — am I to keep them waiting while I 
humour a parcel of players? 

MARY 

Indeed, Madam, I wonder that you have spared 
half an hour. 

ELIZABETH 

Wonder, Mary! Wonder! And when ycu know 
why I do what I do you shall be Queen instead of me. 
In the meantime you may learn the trade, if you 
choose, I give you a kingdom to rule in the likeness 
of a poor player. Let me see how you do it! Yet 
mark this — though with fair cheeks and black hair 
you may come by a coronet (but the Earl goes to 
Ireland) yet if you rule your kingdom by the glance 
of your eyes, you will lose it as other Maries have 
done. 

MARY 

I must reign in my own way — forgive me, Madam ! 
— ^not yours. 

ELIZABETH 

Girl, do you think you could ever rule in mine? 
Well, try your way! But — between queens, Mary — 
one kingdom at a time! 

[Elizabeth goes out.'\ 
MARY 

[She sits on the table edge, swinging her pretty foot.} 
So Pembroke goes to Ireland ! Ay, and comes back, 



72 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

old winter ! I can wait. And while I wait — Shakes- 
peare ! Will Shakespeare ! O charity — I wish it were 
Marlowe! What did the old woman say? A king- 
dom in the likeness of a player. I wonder. Well, 
we'll explore. Yet I wish it were Marlowe. 

{Shakespeare enters.'] 
Ah ! here comes poor Mr. Shakespeare looking for the 
Queen and finding — 

SHAKESPEARE 

The Queen! 

MARY 

Hush! Palace walls! Well, Mr. Shakespeare, 
what's the news ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Good, bad and indifferent. 

MARY 

Take the bad first. 

SHAKESPEARE 

The bad? — that I have not seen you some five 
weeks! The good — that I have now seen you some 
five seconds! The indifferent — that you do not care 
one pin whether I see you or not for the next five 
years ! 

MARY 

Who told you that, Solomon? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I have had no answer to — 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 73 

MARY 

Five letters, seven sonnets, two catches and a 
roundelay ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Love's Labour Lost! 

MARY 

Ah, Mr. Shakespeare, you were not a Solomon 
then! There was too much Rosaline and too little 
Queen in that labour. 

SHAKESPEARE 

You're right! Solomon would have drawn all 
Rosaline and no Queen at all. I'll write another play ! 

MARY 

It might pay you better than your sonnets. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Do you read them — Rosaline? 

MARY 

Most carefully, Mr. Shakespeare — on Saturday 
nights! Then I make up my accounts and empty my 
purse, and wonder — must I pawn my jewels? Then 
I cry. And then I read your latest sonnet and laugh 
again. 

SHAKESPEARE 

You should not laugh. 

MARY 

Why, is it not meant to move me? 



74 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

You should not laugh. I tell you such a thought, 
Such fiery lava welling from a heart, 
So crystalled in the wonder-working brain. 
Mined by the soul and rough-cut into words 
Fit for a poet's faceting and, last, 
Strung on a string of gold by a golden tongue- 
Why, such a thought is an immortal jewel 
To gild you, living, in men's eyes, and after 
To make you queen of all the un jewelled dead 
Who bear not their least bracelet hence. For I, 
Eternally I'd deck you, were you my own. 
Would you but wear my necklaces divine, 
My rings of sorcery, my crowns of song. 
What chains of emeralds — did you but know? 
My rubies, O my rubies — could you but see! 
And this one gem of wonder, pearl of pearls. 
Hid in my heart for you, could you but take, 
Would you but take — 

MARY 

Open your heart ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Not SO. 

The god who made it hath forgot the key. 
Or lost or lent it. , 

MARY 

Heartless god ! Poor heart ! 
Yet if this key — (is there indeed a key?) 

SHAKESPEARE 

No lock without a key, nor heart, nor heart. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 75 

MARY 

— were found one day and strung with other keys 
Upon my ring? 

SHAKESPEARE 

With other — ? 

MARY 

Keys of hearts! 
What else? 

Tucked in the casket where my mortals lie — 
Sick pearl, flawed emerald, brooch or coronet — 

SHAKESPEARE 

God! 

MARY 

Why, Jeweller? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Then what they say — 

MARY 

They say? 
What do they say? And what care I? They say 
Pembroke ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

They lie! You shall not speak. They lie! 

MARY 

So little doubt — and you a man ! It's new. 

It's sweet. It will not last. We spoke of keys — 

This heart-key, had I found it, would you buy? 

Come, tempt me with immortal necklaces ! 

Come, purchase me with ornaments divine! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I love you — 



76 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 



Well? 

I love you — 
Is that all? 
I love you so. 



SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 
SHAKESPEARE 



MARY 

Why, that's a common cry, 
I hear it daily, like the London cries, 
"Old chairs to mend!" or "Sweet, sweet lavender!" 
Is this your string of pearls, sixteen a penny? 

SHAKESPEARE 

D'you laugh at me? I mean it. 

MARY 

So do they all. 
Buy! Buy my lavender! Lady, it's cheap — 
It's sweet — new cut— I starve — for Christ's sake, buy! 
They mean it, all the hoarse-throat, hungry men 
That sell me lavender, that sell me love. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I put my wares away. I do not sell. 

MARY 

O pedlar! I had half a mind to buy. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Too late. 

MARY 

Open your pack again ! What haste ! 
What — ^not a trinket left me, not a pin 
For a poor lady ? Does not the offer hold ? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 77 

SHAKESPEARE ^ 

You did not close. 

MARY 

I will. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Withdrawn ! Withdrawn ! 

MARY 

Renew ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Too late. 

MARY 

You know your business best; 
Yet — what care I? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Or I? Yet — never again 
To buy and sell with you! 

MARY 

Never again! 
Heigh-ho! I sighed, sir. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Yes, I heard you sigh. 

MARY 

And smiled. At court, sir — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Yes, they buy and sell 
At court. But I know better — give and take! 

MARY 

^Evading him.'] 
What will you give me if I let you take? 



78 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

If you will come with me into my mind — 
How shall I say it ? Still you'll laugh at me ! 

MARY 

Maybe ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

My mind's not one room stored, but many, 
A house of windows that o'er look far gardens, 
The hanging gardens of more Babylons 
Than there are bees in a linden tree in June. 
I'm the king-prisoner in his capital. 
Ruling strange peoples of a world unknown. 
Yet there come envoys from the untravelled lands 
That fill my corridors with miracles 
As it were tribute, secretly, by night ; 
And I wake in the dawn like Solomon, 
To stare at peacocks, apes and ivory, 
And a closed door. 

And all these stores I give you for your own, 
You shall be mistress of my fairy-lands, 
I'll ride you round the world on the back of a dream, 
I'll give you all the stars that ever danced 
In the sea o' nights. 
If you will come into my mind with me. 
If you will learn me — know me. 

MARY 

I do know you. 
You are the quizzical Mr. Shakespeare of the 'Rose,' 
who never means a word he says. I've heard of you. 
All trades hate you because you are not of their union, 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 79 

and yet know the tricks of each trade; but your own 
trade loves you, because you are content with a crook 
in the lower branches when you might be top of the 
tree. You write comedies, all wit and no wisdom, 
like a flower-bed raked but not dug ; but the high stuff 
of the others, their tragedies and lamentable ends, 
these you will not essay. Why not, Mr. Shakespeare 
of the fairy-lands? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Queen Wasp, I do not know. 

MARY 

King Drone, then I will tell you. You are the little 
boy at Christmas who would not play snap-dragon 
till the flames died down, and so was left at the end 
with a cold raisin in an empty dish. That's you, that's 
you, with the careful fingers and no good word in 
your plays for any woman. Run home, run home, 
there's no more to you! 

SHAKESPEARE 

D'you think so? 

MARY 

I think that I think so. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'll show you. 

MARY 

What will you show me. Will? 

. SHAKESPEARE 

Fairyland, and you and me in it. Will you believe 
in me then? 



8o WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 

Not I, not I! I'm a woman of this world. Give 
me flesh and blood, not gossamer, 
Honey and heart-ache, and a lover's moon. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I read of lovers once in Italy — 
She was like you, such eyes of night, such hair. 
God took a week to make his world, but these 
In four short days made heaven to bum on earth 
Like a great torch; and when they died — 

MARY 

They died? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Like torches quenched in water, suddenly. 
Because they loved too well. 

MARY 

Oh, write it down! 
Ah, could you. Will? I think you could not write it. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I can write Romeo. Teach me Juliet! 

MARY 

I could if I would. Was that her name — ^Juliet? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Poor Juliet! 

MARY 

Not SO poor if I know her. Oh, make that plain — 
she was not poor! And tell them, Will, tell all men 
and women — 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 81 

SHAKESPEARE 

What, my heart? 

MARY 

I will whisper it to you one day when I know you 
better. Oh, it'll be a play! Will you do it for me, 
Will ? Will you write it for you and for me ? Where 
do they live? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Verona. Italy. 

MARY 

Come to me daily! Read it to me scene by scene, 
line by line ! How many acts ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

The old five-branched candlestick. 

MARY 

But a new flame ! Will it take long to write ? . . . . 
It must not. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Shall not. 

MARY 

What shall we call it, Will? 
The Tragical Discourse? The Famous End? 
The Lovers of Verona? 

SHAKESPEARE 

No, no! Plain. 
Their two names married — Romeo and Juliet. 
lAs they lean towards each other still talking'i 

THE CURTAIN FALLS 



82 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ACT IL 

Scene II. 

IThe first performance of Romeo and Juliet: the end of the 
fourth act. The curtain rises on a small hare dusty 
office, littered with stage properties and dresses. When 
the door at the back of the stage is open there is a 
glimpse of passage and curtains, and moving figures, 
with now and then a Hare of torchlight. There is a 
continuous far-away murmur of voices and, once in a 
while, applause. As the curtain goes up Mary Fitton 
is opening the door to go out. Shakespeare holds 
her back."] 

MARY 

Let go! Let me go! I must be in front at the 
end of that act. I must hear what the Queen will 
say to it. 

SHAKESPEARE 

But you'll come back? 

That depends on what the Queen says. IVe prom- 
ised you nothing if she damns it. 

{The applause breaks out again."] 

SHAKESPEARE 

Listen! Is it damned? 

MARY 

Sugar-sweet, isn't it? But that's nothing. That's 
the mob. That's your friends. They'll clap you. But 
the Queen, if she claps, claps your play. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Your play! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 83 

MARY 

Is it mine? Earnest? 

SHAKESPEAitE 

My earnest, but your play. 

MARY 

Well, good luck to my play! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Give me — 

MARY 

Oh, so it's not a free gift? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Give me a finger-tip of thanks! 

MARY 

In advance? Not I ! But if the Queen likes it — Vm 
her obedient servant. If the Queen opens her hand I 
shan't shut mine. Where she claps once I'll clap 
twice. Where she gives you a hand to kiss, I'll give 
you — There ! Curtain's down ! I must go. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Mary! 

MARY 

Listen to it! Listen! Listen! This is better than 
any poor Mary. 

[She goes out. The door is left open. The applause, 
breaks out again. Ji 

SHAKESPEARE 

Is this the golden apple in my hand 
At last? 



84 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

How tastes it, heart, and is it sweet, is it sweet? 

Sweeter than common apples? So many years 

Of days I watched it grow and propped and pruned, 

•Besought the sun and watered. O my tr^e 

When the green broke! That was a morning hour. 

Fool, so to long for fruit ! Now the fruit's ripe. 

The tree in spring was fairest, when it flowered. 

And every petal held a drink of dew. 

The bloom went long ago. Well, the fruit's here! 

Hark! 

[The applause breaks out again.'] 
It goes well. Eat up your apple, man! 
This is the hour, the hour! I'm the same man — 
No better for it. When Marlowe praised me so 
He meant it — meant it. I thought he laughed at me 
In his sleeve. Will Shakespeare ! Romeo and Juliet ! 
I made it — I ! Indeed, indeed, at heart — 
(I would not for the world they read my heart: 
I'd scarce tell Mary) but indeed, at heart, 
I know no song was ever sung before 
Like this my lovely song. / made it — I ! 
It has not changed me. I'm the same small man, 
And yet I made it! Strange! 

{A knock.'] 

STAGE HAND 

[Putting in his head at the door."] 
You'll not see anyone, sir, will you? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I told you already I'll come to the green-room when 
the show's over. I can see no stranger before. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 85 

STAGE HAND 

So IVe told her, sir, many times. But she says 
you will know her when you see her and she can't 
wait. 

SHAKESPEARE 

A lady? 

STAGE HAND 

No, no, sir, just a woman. I'll tell her to go away 
again. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Wait ! Did she give no name ? 

STAGE HAND 

Name of Hathaway, sir, from Stratford. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Anne! Bring her here! Bring her here quickly, 
privately! You should have told me sooner. Where 
does she wait? Did any see her? Did any speak 
with her? If anyone asks for me save Henslowe or 
Mr. Marlowe, I am gone, I am not in the theatre. 
What are you staring at ? What are you waiting for ? 
Bring her here ! 

STAGE HAND 

Glad to be rid of her, sir ! She has sat in the pas- 
sage this hour to be tripped over, and nothing budges 
her. 

[Calling.'l 
Will you come this way — ^this way! 

[He disappears.'] 



86 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Anne? Anne in London? What does Anne in 
London ? 

STAGE HAND 
IReturning.'] 

This way, this way,! It's a dark passage. This 
way! 

{Mrs. Hathaway conies w.] 

SHAKESPEARE 

Not Anne! 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Is Mr. Shakespeare—? Will! Is it Will? Oh, 
how you're changed! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Ten years change a young man. 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

■But not an old woman. I'm Anne's mother still. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I'm not so changed that I forget it. What do you 
want of me, Mrs. Hathaway? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

I bring you news. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Good news? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

It's as you take it. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Dead? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 87 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Is that good news, my half son? She is not so 
blessed. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I did not say it so. Is she with you? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

No. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did she send you? Oh, so she has heard of this 
business! It's like her to send you now. She is to 
take her toll of it, is she? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

You are bitter, you are bitter! You are the east 
wind of your own spring sunshine. She has heard 
nothing of this business or of that — dark lady. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Take care! 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

I saw her come from this room — off her guard. I 
know how a woman looks when a man has pleased 
her. Oh, please her if you must ! I am old. I do not 
judge. And I think you will not always. But that's 
not my news. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I can't hear it now. I am pressed. This is not 
every night. I'll see you to-morrow, not now. 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

My news may be dead to-morrow. 



88 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

So much the better. I needn't hear it. 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Son, son, son! You don't know what you say. 

SHAKESPEARE 

That is not my name. And I know well what I 
say. You are my wife's mother and I'll not share 
anything of hers. But if she needs money, I'll send 
it. To-night makes me a rich man. 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Richer than you think — and to-morrow poorer, if 
you do not listen to me. 

IT here is a roar of applause. J 

SHAKESPEARE 

Listen to you? Why should I listen to you? Can 
you give me anything to better that? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

But if she can? Sixty years I have learned lessons 
in the world; but I never learned that a city was bet- 
ter than green fields, friends better than a house-mate, 
or the works of a man's hand more to him than the 
child of his own flesh. 

SHAKESPEARE 

And have I learned it, I ? Do I not know 
That when I left her I left all behind 
That was my right? See how I live my life — 
Married nor single, neither bond nor free, 
My future mortgaged for a roofless home! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 89 

For though I love I must not say "I love you, 
Come to my hearth !" A child ? I have no child : 
I hear no voice crying to me o' nights 
Out of the frost-bound dark. How can it cry 
Or smile at me until I give it lips? 
How can it clutch me till I give it hands? 
How can it be, until I give it leave ? 
Small sparrow at the window-pane, a'cold, 
Begging your crumb of Hfe from me, indeed 
I cannot let you in. Small love, small sweet, 
Look not so trustfully! You are not mine, 
Not mine, not anyone's. Away, unborn! 
Back to the womb of dreams, and never stir, 
Never again ! How meek the small ghost fades. 
Reject and fatherless, that might have been 
My son! 

MRS. HATHAV^AY 

Is it possible? Anne knew you best. 
She said you did not know. Dear son, too soon 
By two last months yet by these months too late 
After you left her, Hamnet, the boy, was born. 

SHAKESPEARE 

It is not true! 

MRS. HATHAV^AY 

Ah, ah, she knew you best. 
She said always, weeping she said always 
You would not listen, though she sent you word; 
But when the boy was grown she'd send the boy, 
Then you would listen and come home, come home 
But now that web is tattered in its turn 
By a cold wind, an out-of-season wind, 



90 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Tearing the silver webs, blacking the leaves 
And shaking the first blossoms down too soon, 
Too soon, too soon. He shivered and lay down 
Among pinched violets and the wrack of spring; 
But when the sky drew breath and April came, 
Amnog pinched violets and the wrack of spring; 
New flowers from the ground, still our flower 

drooped : 
The sunlight hurt his eyes, his bed's too hot, 
He drinks and will not eat: since Saturday 
There's but one end. 

SHAKESPEARE 

What end? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

You're stubborn as she. 
She will not bow to it. Yet she sent me hither 
To bring you home. 

SHAKESPEARE 

New witch-work 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Will you not come? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I will not. 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Will you not come? She bade me say 
That the boy cries for you — 

SHAKESPEARE 

A lie! A gross lie! 
He never called me father. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 91 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

That he does! 
You are his Merlin and his Arthur too, 
And God-Almighty Sundays. Thus it goes — 
*'My Father says — " and ''When my Father comes — " 
"I'll tell my father !" To his mother's hand 
He clings and whispers in his fever now, 
With bright eyes wide — your eyes, son, your quick 

eyes — 
That she shall fetch you (she? she cannot speak) 
To bring him wonders home like Whittington, 
(And Where's your cat?) and tell the tales you know 
Of Puck and witches, and the English kings, 
To whistle down the birds as Orpheus did, 
And for a silver penny pick the moon 
From the sky's pocket, and buy him gingerbread — 
And so he rambles on, breaking her heart 
A second time, God help her! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I will come. 

A man's voice 
[Off the stage.'] 

Shakespeare! Will Shakespeare! Call Will Shake- 
speare ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

[To Mrs. Hathaway.l 

Here! 
When do we start? 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

The horses wait at the inn. 



92 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

VOICE 

AVill Shakespeare! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Give me an hour. The bridge is nearer. 
On London Bridge at midnight! I'll be there! 

MRS. HATHAWAY 

Not later, I warn you, if you'd see the child alive. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Fear not, I'll be there. D'you think so ill of me? 
I could have been a good father to my own son — if I 
had known. If I had known! This is a woman's 
way of enduring a wrong. Oh, dumb beast! Could 
she not send for me — send to me? Am I a monster 
that she could not come to me? "Buy him ginger- 
bread" ! To send me no word till he's dying ! Would 
any she-devil in hell do so to a man? Dying? I 
tell you he shall live and not die. There was a man 
once fought death for a friend and held him. Can 
I not fight death for my own son? Can I not beat 
death off for an hour, for a little hour, till I have 
kissed my only son? 

marlowe's voice 
Shakespeare! The Queen — the Queen has asked for 

you, 
And sent her woman twice. Will Shakespeare ! Will I 

SHAKESPEARE 

At midnight then. 

IMrs. Hathaway goes oui.l 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 93 

VOICE 

Will Shakespeare ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Coming ! Coming ! 

MARY 

{In the doorway, followed by Marlowe.'] 
Is Shakespeare — ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Oh, not now, not now, not now! 

MARY 

Are you mad to keep her waiting? She has favours 
up her sleeve. You are to write her a play for the 
summer revels. Quick now, ere the last act begins! 
Off with you! 

[Shakespeare goes out."] 
Look how he drags away! What's come to the man 
to fling aside his luck? 

MARLOWE 

He has left it behind him. 

MARY 

Here's a proxy silver-tongue! Are you Mr. Mar- 
lowe? 

MARLOWE 

Are you Mistress Fitton? 

MARY 

So weVe heard of each other! 

MARLOWE 

What have you heard of me ? 



94 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 

That you were somebody's brother-in-art! What 
have you heard of me? 

MARLOWE 

That you were his sister-in-art. 

MARY 

A man's sister! I'd as soon be a cold pudding! 
What did he say of his sister, brother? 

MARLOWE 

That you brought him luck. 

MARY 

That he leaves behind him! 

MARLOWE 

Like the blind man's lucky sixpence that the Jew 
stole when he put a penny in his plate, 

MARY 

" A Jew of Malta? 

MARLOWE 

What, do you read me? You? 

A STAGE HAND 

[/» the passage.'] 
Last act, please ! Last act ! Last act ! 

MARY 

I must go watch it. 

MARLOWE 

Don't you know it? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 95 

MARY 

Oh, by heart! Yet I must sisterly watch it. 

MARLOWE 

Stay a Httle. 

MARY 

Till he comes? Then I shall miss all, for he'll 
keep me. 

MARLOWE 

Against your will? 

MARY 

No, with my Will. 

MARLOWE 

Is it he or his plays? 

MARY 

Not sure. 

MARLOWE 

If I were he I'd make you sure. 

MARY 

I wonder if you could ! I wonder — how ? 

MARLOWE 

Too long to tell you here, and — curtain's up! 

MARY 

Come to my house one lazy day and tell me! 

MARLOWE 

Hark! That's more noise than curtain! 

henslowe's voice 
Shakespeare ! Shakespeare ! 

[Entering.'] 



96 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Here's a calamity! Where's Shakespeare? He 
should be in the green-room! Why does he tuck 
away in this rat-hole when he's wanted? And what's 
to be done? Where in God's name is Shakespeare? 

MARY 

With the Queen. 

MARLOWE 

The curtain's up; he'll be here in a minute. 

MARY 

What's wrong? 

HENSLOWE 

Everything ! Juliet ! The clumsy beasts ! They let 
him fall from the bier ; they let him fall on his arm ! 
Now he's moaning and wincing and swears he can't 
go on, though he has but to speak his death scene. 
I've bid them cut the afterwards. 

MARLOWE 

Broken? 

HENSLOWE 

I fear so. 

MARY 

Let it be broken! Say he must go on! 
What? Spoil the play? These baby-men! 

HENSLOWE 

He will not. 

MARLOWE 

The understudy? 

HENSLOWE 

Playing Paris. Where's Shakespeare? What's to 
be done! The play's spoiled. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 97 

MARLOWE 

He'll break his heart. 

MARY 

He shall not break his heart! 
This is our play! Back to your Juliet-boy, 
Strip off his wear and never heed his arm! 
Bid them play on and bring me Juliet's robes! 
I'll put them on and put on Juliet too. 
Quick, Henslowe! 

HENSLOWE 

What ! a woman play on the stage ? 

MARY 

Ay, when the men fail! Quick! I say I'll do it! 

SHAKESPEARE 

{Entering.'] 
Here still? You've heard? 

MARY 

[0» the threshold.'] 

And heeded. Never stop me! 
You shall have Juliet. You shall have your play. 
{She and Henslowe hurry out.] 

MARLOWE 

There goes a man's master! But does she know 
the part? 

SHAKESPEARE 

She knows each line, she knows each word, she 
breathed them 

Into my heart long ere I wrote them down. 



98 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARLOWE 

But to act! Can you trust her? 

SHAKESPEARE 

She? Go and watch! I need not. 

MARLOWE 

But is it in her? She's Julia not Juliet, not your 
young Juliet, not your June morning — or is she? 

SHAKESPEARE 

You talk! You talk! You talk! What do you 
know of her? 

MARLOWE 

Or you, old Will? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I dream her. 

MARLOWE 

Well, pleasant dreams! 

SHAKESPEARE 

No more. I'm black awake. 

MARLOWE 

What's wrong? Ill news? 

SHAKESPEARE 

From Stratford. Yes, yes, yes, Kit! And it must 
come now, just now, after ten dumb years! 

MARLOWE 

Stratford! Whew! I'd forgotten your nettle-bed. 
What does she want of you? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 99 

SHAKESPEARE 

Hark! Mary's on. 

MARLOWE 

It's a voice like the drip of a honey-comb. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Can she play Juliet, man? Can she play Juliet? 
I think she can. Kit? 

MARLOWE 

Ay? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Oh, is there peace 
Anywhere, Kit, in any, any world? 

MARLOWE 

What is it, peace? 

SHAKESPEARE 

It passeth understanding. 
They round the sermon off on Sunday with it. 
Laugh in their sleeves and send us parching home. 
This is a dew that dries ere Monday comes, 
And oh, the heat of the seven days! 

MARLOWE 

I like it! 
The smell of dust, the shouting, and the glare 
Of crowded noon in cities, and such nights 
As this night, crowning labour. What is — peace? 

STAGE HAND 

lEntering.'\ 
Sir, sir, sir, will you come down, sir, says Mr. Hens- 



100 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

lowe. The end's near and the house half mad. We've 
not seen a night like this since — since your night, sir! 
Your first night, sir, your roaring Tamburlaine night! 
Never anything like it and I've seen many. Will you 
come, sirs? 

SHAKESPEARE 

You go, Marlowe ! 

STAGE HAND 

There's nothing to fear, sir! It runs like clock- 
work. The lady died well, sir ! Lord, who'd think she 
was a woman! There, there, it breaks out. Listen 
to 'em! Come, sir, come, come! 

MARLOWE 

We'll come! We'll come! 

{The man goes out.l 

SHAKESPEARE 

Not I! Oh, if you love me, Marlowe, swear I'm 
ill, gone away, dead, what you please, but keep them 
away! I can stand no more. 

MARLOWE 

It's as she said — ^mad — mad — to fling your luck 
away. 

SHAKESPEARE 

A frost has touched me, Marlowe, my fruit's black. 
Help me now! Go, go! Say I'm gone, as I shall be 
when I've seen Mary — 

MARLOWE 

A back stairs? Now I understand. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE loi 

SHAKESPEARE 

Oh, stop your laughter! I'm to leave London in 
half an hour. 

MARLOWE 

Earnest? For long? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Little or long, what matter? I've missed the mo- 
ment. Who has his moment twice ? 

MARLOWE 

Shall you tell her why you go? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Mary? God forbid! 

VOICE 

Shakespeare! Call Shakespeare! 

SHAKESPEARE 

D'you hear them ? Help me ! Say I am gone I Oh, 
go, go I 

MARLOWE 

Well, if you wish it! 

{He goes out leaving the door ajar. As Shakespeare 
goes on speaking the murmurs and claps die away and 
the noises of the stage are heard, the shouts of the 
scene-shifters, directions being given, and so on. 
Finally there is silence."] 

SHAKESPEARE 

Wish it ? I wish it ? Have you no more for me 
Of comfort, Marlowe? 

Oh, what a dumb and measureless gulf divides 
Star from twin star, and friend from closest friend ! 



102 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Women, they say, can bridge it when they will: 
As seamen rope a ship with grappling irons 
These spinners of strong cords invisible 
Make fast and draw the drifting glory home 
In the name of love. I know not. Better go! 
I am not for this harbour — 

[There is a sound of hasty footsteps and Mary Fitton 
enters in Juliefs robes. She stands in the doorway, 
panting^ exalted, with arms outstretched. The door 
swings to behind her, shutting out all sound."] 

MARY 

Oh, I faced 

The peacock of the world, the arch of eyes 
That watched me love a god, the eyes, eyes, eyes. 
That watched me die of love. Wake me again, 

soul that did inhabit me, O husband 
Whose mind I uttered, to whose will I swayed, 
Whose self of love I was! Wake me again 
To die of love in earnest ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Mary ! Mary ! 

MARY 

1 cannot ride this hurricane. I spin 

Like a leaf in the air. Die down and let me lie 
Close to the earth I am! O stir me not 
With rosy breathings from the south, the south 
Of sun and wine and peaks that flame to God 
Suddenly in the dark! O wind, let be 
And drive me not; for speech lies on my lips 
Like a strange finger hushing back my soul 
With words not mine, and thoughts not mine arise 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 103 

Like marsh-flame dancing ! As a leaf to a tree 
Upblown, O wind that whirls me, I return. 
Master and quickener, give me love indeed! 

SHAKESPEARE 

These are the hands I never held till now: 
These are the lips I never felt on mine: 
This is the hour I dreamed of, many an hour : 
This is the spirit awake. God in your sky! 
Did your heart beat so on the seventh dawn? 

MARY 

'Ware thunder! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Sweet, He envies and is dumb, 
Dumb as His dark. He was our audience. 
Now to His blinding centrum home He hies, 
Omnipotent drudge, to wind the clocks of Time 
And tend His 'plaining universes all — 
To us, to us, His empty theatre of night 
Abandoning. But we too steal away; 
For the play's done. 

Lights out — all over — and here we stand alone, 
Holding each other in a little room. 
Like two souls in one grave. We are such lovers — 

anne's voice 
As there's no room for in the human air 
And green side of the grass — 

SHAKESPEARE 

A voice ! A voice ! 

MARY 

No voice here! 



104 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

In my heart I heard it cry 
Like a sick child waked suddenly at night. 

[Crying out.'\ 
A child — a sick child! Unlink your arms that hold 
me! 

MARY 

Never till I choose 

SHAKESPEARE 

Put back your hair! I am lost 

Unless I lose all gain. O moonless night, 

In your hot darkness I have lost my way! 

But kiss me, summer, once! On London Bridge 

At midnight — I'll be there! Has the clock struck? 

MARY 

Midnight long since. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Oh, I am damned and lost 
In hell for ever! 

MARY 

Food, dear fool, what harm? 
If this be hell indeed, is not hell kind ? 
Is not hell lovely, if this love be hell? 
Is not damnation sweet? 

SHAKESPEARE 

God does not know 
How sweet, how sweet! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 105 

MARY 

Were they not wise, those two 
Whose same blood beats again in you and me. 
That chose the desert and the fall and went 
Exultant from their garden and their God? 
Long shall the sworded angels stand at ease 
And idly guard the undesired delight: 
Long shall the grasses grow and tall the briars, 
And bent the branches of the ancient trees: 
And many a year the wilding flowers shall blaze 
Under a lonely sun, and fruited sweets 
Shall drop and rot, and feed the roots that feed. 
And bud again and ripen : long and long 
Silent the watchman-lark in heaven shall hang 
High over Eden, e'er they come again 
Those two, whose blood is our blood, and their love 
Our love, our own, that no god gave us, ours. 
The venture ours, the glory ours, the shame 
A price worth paying, then, now, ever — • 

SHAKESPEARE 

Eve, 
Eve, Eve, the snake has been with you! You draw. 
You drink my soul as I your body — 

MARY 

Kiss! 

THE CURTAIN FALLS 



io6 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ACT III 

Scene I. 

[Shakespeare* s lodging. It is the plain hut well-arranged 
room of a man of fair means and fine taste. The 
walls are panelled: on them hang a couple of un- 
framed engravings, a painting, tapestry, and a map 
of the known world. There is a four-post bed with 
a coverlet and hangings of needlework, and on the 
window-sill a pot of early summer Uowers. There is 
a chair or two of oak and a table littered with papers. 
Shakespeare is sitting at it, a manuscript in his hand. 
On the arm of the chair lolls Marlowe, one arm Hung 
round Shakespeare's neck, reading over his shoulder Ji 

SHAKESPEARE 

Man, how youVe worked! A whole act to my ten 
lines ! You dice all day and dance all night and yet — 
how do you do it ? 

MARLOWE 

Like it? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Like it? What a word for a word-master! Con- 
sider, Kit ! When the sun rises like a battle song over 
the sea: when the wind's feet visibly race along the 
tree-tops of a ten-mile wood: when they shout 
"Amen!" in the Abbey, praying for the Queen on 
Armada Day: when the sky is a brass gong and the 
rain steel rods, and across all suddenly arch the seven 
colours of the promise — do I like these wonders when 
I stammer and weep, and know that God lives ? Like, 
Marlowe ! 

MARLOWE 

Yes, yes, old Will! But do you like the new act? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE loy 

SHAKESPEARE 

I like it, Kit! 

IThey look at each other and laugh."] 

MARLOWE 

And now for your scene, ere I go. 

SHAKESPEARE 

My scene! I give you what I've done. Finish it 
alone, Kit, and take what it brings ! I'm sucked dry. 

MARLOWE 

IVe heard that before. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I wish I had never come to London. 

MARLOWE 

Henslowe's back. Seen him? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I've seen no-one. Did the tour go well? 

MARLOWE 

He says so. He left them at Stratford. Well, I 
must go. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Where? To Mary? 

MARLOWE 

Why should I go to your Mary? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Because IVe asked you to, often enough. Why else? 
You've grown to be friends. You could help me if you 
would. 



io8 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARLOWE 

Never step between a man and a woman! 

SHAKESPEARE 

But youVe our friend! And they say you know 
women. 

MARLOWE 

They say many things. They say we're rivals, Will 
— that I shall end by having you hissed. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Let them say! But have you seen Mary? When 
did you last see Mary? 

MARLOWE 

I forget. Saturday. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did you speak of me, Kit? Kit, does she speak 
of me? 

MARLOWE 

If you must have it — seldom. New songs, new 
books, new music — of plays and players and the 
Queen's tantrums — not of you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I have not seen her three days. 

MARLOWE 

Why, go then and see her ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

She has company. She is waiting on the Queen. 
She gives me a smile and a white cool finger-tip, and 
— "Farewell, Mr. Shakespeare !" Yet a month ago, ay 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 109 

and less than a month — ! Did you give her my mes- 
sage? What did she say? 

MARLOWE 

She laughed and says you dream. She never liked 
you better. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did she say that ? 

MARLOWE 

She says you cool to her, not she to you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did she say that ? 

MARLOWE 

Swore it, with tears in her eyes. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Is it so? I wish it were so. Well, you're my good 
friend, Marlowe! 

MARLOWE 

Oh, leave that! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Kit, do you blame me so much? 

MARLOWE 

Why should I blame you? 

SHAKESPEARE 

That I'm here and not in Warwickshire. 

MARLOWE 

I throw no stones. Why? Have you heard aught? 



no WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

No, nor dared ask — nor dared ask, Marlowe. The 
boy's dead. I know it. But I will not hear it. Mar- 
lowe, Marlowe, Marlowe, do you judge me? 

MARLOWE 

Ay, that putting your hand to the plough you look 
back. Would I comb out my conscience daily as a 
woman combs out her hair ? I do what I choose, though 
it damn me! Blame you? The round world has not 
such another Mary — or so, had I your eyes, I should 
hold. For this prize, if I loved her, I would pay away 
all I had. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Honour, Kit? 

MARLOWE 

Honour, Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Faith and conscience and an only son? 

MARLOWE 

It*s my own life. What are children to me? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Well, I have paid. 

MARLOWE 

But you grudge — ^you grudge! Look at you! If 
you go to her with those eyes it's little wonder that she 
tires of you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Tires? Who says that she tires? Who says it? 

MARLOWE 

Not I, old Will ! Not I ! Why, Shakespeare? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE in 

SHAKESPEARE 

IShaken.l 
I can't sleep, Kit ! I can't write. What has come to 
me? I think I go mad. 

IHe starts.'] 
Was that the boy on the stairs ? I sent him to her. I 
wrote. I have waited her will long enough. She shall 
see me to-night. I'll know what it means. She plays 
with me, Kit. Are you going ? 

MARLOWE 

I shall scarce reach Deptford ere dark. 

SHAKESPEARE 

How long do you lodge in Deptford? 

MARLOWE 

All summer. 

HENSLOWE 

[Pounding at the door."] 
Who's at home? Who's at home? 

MARLOWE 

That's Henslowe. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Why does the boy stay so long? 

HENSLOWE 

[/» the doorway."] 
Gentlemen, the traveller returns ! For the last time, 
I tell you ! My bones grow too old for barn-storming. 
Do you go as I come, Kit ? Thank you for nothing ! 



112 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARLOWE 

Be civil, Henslowe! "The Curtain's" on its knees 
to me for my next play. 

HENSLOWE 

Pooh ! This man can serve my turn. 

MARLOWE 

You see, they'll make rivals of us, Will, before 
they've done. I'll see you soon again. 

{He goes out.l 

HENSLOWE 

Well, what's the news? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I sit at home. You roam England. You can do the 
talking. How did the tour go? 

HENSLOWE 

You're thin, man! What's the matter? Success 
doesn't suit you? 

SHAKESPEARE 

How did the tour go? 

HENSLOWE 

By way of Oxford, Warwick, Kenilworth — 

SHAKESPEARE 

I said "how" not "where." 

HENSLOWE 

— and Leamington and Stratford. We played 
'Romeo' every other night — ^and to full houses, my son ! 
I've a pocketful of money for you. They liked you 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 113 

everywhere. As for your townsfolk, they went mad. 
You can safely go home, boy ! You'll find Sir Thomas 
in the front row, splitting his gloves. He'll ask you to 
dinner. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Were you there long? 

HENSLOWE 

Two nights. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did you see — anyone? 

HENSLOWE 

Why not say — 

SHAKESPEARE 

I say, did you pass my house? 

HENSLOWE 

I had forgot the way. 

SHAKESPEARE 

As I have, Henslowe! 

HENSLOWE 

Should I have sought her? 

SHAKESPEARE 

No. 

HENSLOWE 

Yet I did see her. 
Making for London, not a week ago, 
Alone on horseback, sudden the long grey road 
Grew friendly, like a stranger in a dream 
Nodding "I know you !" and behold, a love 



114 WILL SHAKESPEARE 



Long dead, that smiles and says, "I never died!" 
Then in the turn of the lane I saw your thatch. 
Summer not winter, else was all unchanged. 
Still in the dream I left my horse to graze. 
And let ten years slip from me at your gate. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Is it ten years? 

HENSLOWE 

The little garden lay 
Enchanted in the Sunday sloth of noon ; 
In th' aspen tree the wind hung, fast asleep, 
Yet the air danced a foot above the flowers 
And gnats danced in it. I saw a poppy-head 
Spilling great petals, noiseless, one by one : 
I heard the honeysuckle breathe — sweet, sweet: 
The briar was sweeter — a. long hedge, pink-starred- 

SHAKESPEARE 

I know. 

HENSLOWE 

There was a bush of lavender. 
And roses, and a bee in every rose, 
Drowning the lark that fluted, fields away, 
Up in the marvel blue. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did you go in? 

HENSLOWE 

Why, scarce I dared, for as I latched the gate 
The wind stirred drowsily, and "Hush!" it said. 
And slept again; but all the garden waked 
Upon the sound. I swear, as I play Prologue, 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 115 

It watched me, waiting. Down the path I crept, 
Tip-toe, and reached the window, and looked in. 

SHAKESPEARE 

You saw — ? 

HENSLOWE 

I saw her; though the place was gloom 
After the sunshine; but I saw her — ; 



Changed ? 
I knew her. 



SHAKESPEARE 
HENSLOWE 



SHAKESPEARE 

Who was with her ? 

HENSLOWE 

She was alone, 
Beside the hearth unkindled, sitting alone. 
A child's chair was beside her, but no child. 
Her hands were sleepless, and beneath her breath 
She tuned a thread of song — your song of * Willow.' 
But when I tapped upon the window-pane. 
Oh, how she turned, and how leaped up ! Her face 
Glowed white as iron new lifted from the forge: 
Her hair fled out behind her in one flame 
As to the door she ran, with little cries 
Scarce human, tearing at the bolt, the key. 
And flung it crashing back: ran out, wide-armed, 
Calling your name : then — saw me, and stood still. 
So still you'd think she died there, standing up, 
As a sapling will in frost, so desolate 
She stood, with summer round her, staring — 



ii6 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Well? 

HENSLOWE 

I asked her, did she know me? Yes, she said, 
And would I rest and eat? So much she said 
To the lawn behind me — oh, to the hollyhock 
Stiff at my elbow — to a something — nothing — 
But not to me. I could not eat her food. 
I told her so. She nodded. Oh, she knows 
How thoughts run in a man. No fool, no fool ! 
I spoke of you. She listened. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Questioned you? 

HENSLOWE 

Never a question. 

SHAKESPEARE 

She said nothing? 



Nothing. 
Not like her. 



HENSLOWE 
SHAKESPEARE 



HENSLOWE 

But her eyes spoke, as I came 
By way of London, Juliet, 'The Rose,' 
And the Queen's great favour (*'And why not?* 

they said) 
Again to silence; so, as I turned to go 
I asked her — "Any greeting?" Then she said, 
Lifting her chin as if she sped her words 
Far, far, like pigeons flung upon the air, 
And soft her voice as bird-wings — then she said, 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 117 

"Tell him the woods are green at Shottery, 
Fuller of flowers than any wood in the world." 
"What else?" said I. She said— "The wind still 
blows 

Fresh between park and river. Tell him that!" 
Said I — "No message, letter?'*' Then she said, 
Twisting her hands — "Tell him the days are long. 
Tell him — " and suddenly ceased. Then, with good- 
bye 

Pleasantly spoken, and another look 

At some wraith standing by me, not at me, 

Went back into the house and shut the door. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Ay, shut the door, Henslowe; for had she been this 
she 

Ten years ago and I this other I — 

Well, I have friends to love! Heard Marlowe's 
news? 

He's three-part through Leander! Oh, this Mar- 
lowe! 

I mine for coal but he digs diamonds. 

HENSLOWE 

Yet fill your scuttle lest the world grow chill! Is 
the new play done? 

SHAKESPEARE 

No. 

HENSLOWE 

Much written? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Not a line. 



ii8 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

HENSLOWE 

Are you mad? We're contracted. What shall I 
say to the Queen? 

SHAKESPEARE 

What you please. 

HENSLOWE 

Are you well ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Well enough. 

HENSLOWE 

111 enough, I think! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Write your own plays — bid Marlowe, any man 

That writes as nettles grow or rain comes down! 

I am not born to it. I write not so. 

Romeo and Juliet — I am dead of them ! 

The pay's too small, good clappers! These ghosts 

need blood 
To make 'em plump and lively and they know it, 
And seek their altar. Threads and floating wisps 
Of being, how they fasten like a cloud 
Of gnats upon me, not to be shoo'd off 
Unsatisfied — and they drink deep, drink deep; 
For like a pelican these motes I feed. 
And with old griefs' remembrance and old joys' 
Sharper remembrance daily scourge myself. 
And still they crowd to suck my scars and live. 

HENSLOWE 

Now, now, now — do I ask another 'J^het' of you ? 
God forbid ! A fine play, your *Juliet,' but — 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 119 

SHAKESPEARE 

Now come the "buts." 

HENSLOWE 

Man, we must live ! Can we fill the theatre on love 
and longing, and high words ? Ay, when Marlowe does 
it to the sound of trumpets. But you — you're not Mar- 
lowe. You know too much. Your gods are too much 
men and women. Who'll pay sixpence for a heart- 
ache? and in advance too! Give us but two more 
*Romeo and Juliets' and you may be a great poet, but 
we close down. Another tragedy? No, no, no, we 
don't ask that of you ! We want light stuff, easy stuff. 
Oh, who knows as well as you what's wanted? It's 
a court play, my man! The French Embassy's to be 
there and the two Counts from Italy, and always Essex 
and his gang, and you know their fancy. Get down to 
it now, there's a good lad ! Oh, you can do it in your 
sleep ! Lovers and lasses, and quarrels and kisses, like 
the two halves of a sandwich ! But court lovers, you 
know, that talk verse — and between them a green cress 
of country folk and country song, daffodils and valen- 
tines, and brown bowls of ale — season all with a pep- 
per of wit — and there's your sandwich, there's your 
play, as the Queen likes it, as we all like it ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Ay, as you like it ! There's your title pat ! 
But I'll not serve you. I'm to live, not write. 
Tell that to the Queen! 
[A boy enters wkistling and stops as he sees Shakespeare.'] 
Well, Hugh, what answer? 



120 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

BOY 

None, sir! 

SHAKESPEARE 

What? No answer? 

HENSLOWE 

See here, Will! If you do not write me this play 
you have thrice promised, I'll to the Queen — sick or 
mad ril to the Queen this very day for your physic — 
and so I warn you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

[To the boy.'] 
Did you see — ? 

BOY 

The maid, sir ! 

HENSLOWE 

I'll not see "The Rose" in ruins for a mad — 

SHAKESPEARE 

[To the boy.] 
But what did I bid you ? 

BOY 

Wait on the doorstep till Mistress Fitton came out, 
though I waited all night. But indeed, sir, she's gone ; 
for I saw her, though she did not see me. 

HENSLOWE 

Oh, the Fitton ! Now I see light through the wood ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

What's that you say? 

HENSLOWE 

I say that the Queen shall know where the blame lies. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 121 

SHAKESPEARE 

You lie. / heard you. / saw you twist your lips 
round a white name. 

HENSLOWE 

Will! Will! Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Did you not? 

HENSLOWE 

Why, Will, you have friends, though you fray 'em to 
the parting of endurance. 

SHAKESPEARE 

What's this? 

HENSLOWE 

I say you have friends that see what they see, and 
are sorry. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Yes, I am blessed in one man and woman who do 
not use me as a beast to be milked dry. I have Marlowe 
and — 

HENSLOWE 

Marlowe? And I said, God forgive me, that you 
knew men and women ! Marlowe ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

You spe?k of my friend. 

HENSLOWE 

Ay, Jonathan — of David, the singer, of him that took 
Bathsheba, all men know how. 

[Shakespeare makes a threatening movement.'] 



122 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

No, no. Will! I am too old a man to give and take 
with you — too old a man and too old a friend. 

SHAKESPEARE 

So you're to lie and I'm to listen because you're an 
old man ! 

HENSLOWE 

Lie? Ask any in the town. I'm but a day returned 
and already I've heard the talk. Why, man, they make 
songs of it in the street ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

It? It? It? 

HENSLOWE 

Boy? 

BOY 

Here, sir? 

HENSLOWE 

What was that song you whistled as you came up 
the stairs ? 

BOY 

"Weathercock," sir? 

HENSLOWE 

That's it! 

BOY 

Lord, sir, I know but the one verse I heard a dray- 
man sing. 

HENSLOWE 

How does it go ? 

BOY 

It goes — 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 123 

[SingingJ] 
Two birds settle on a weathercock — 

How's the wind to-day — O ? 
One shall nest and one shall knock — • 
How's the wind to-day — O ? 

Turn about and turn about, 
Kit pops in as Will pops out ! 
Winds that whistle round the weathercock, 
Who's her love to-day — O? 
It's a good tune, sir ! 

HENSLOWE 

Eh, Will ? A good tune ! A rousing tune ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

[Softly.} 
"For this prize, if I loved her, I would pay all I 
had ! I do what I choose though it damn me !" 

BOY 

May I go, sir? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Go, go ! 

BOY 

And my pay, sir? Indeed I'd have stopped the lady 
if I could. But she made as if she were not herself, 
and rode out of the yard. But I knew her, for all her 
riding-coat and breeches. 

HENSLOWE 

What's all this? 

SHAKESPEARE 

{To the boyl. 
You're dreaming — 



124 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

BOY 

No, sir, there was your ring on her finger — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Be still ! Take this and forget your dreams ! 
\_He gives him money.'] 
Henslowe, farewell! If youVe lied to me I'll pay you 
for it, and if you've spoken truth to me I'll pay you 
for it no less. 

HENSLOWE 

Pay? I want no pay. I want the play that the 
Queen ordered, and will have in the end, mark that! 
You have not yet served the Queen. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Boy! Hugh! 

BOY 

Sir? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Which way did she ride ? 

BOY 

Am I asleep or awake, sir? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Which way did she ride? 

BOY 

Across the bridge, sir, as I dreamt it along the Dept- 
ford road. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Marlowe! The Deptford road! The Deptford 
road! 

IHe rushes out.l 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 125 

BOY 



IShowing his money.'] 
Dreaming pays, sir! It's gold. 



HENSLOWE 

Boy, boy ! Never trust a man ! Never kiss a woman ! 
Work all day and sleep all night! Love yourself and 
never ask God for the moon ! So you may live to be 
old. This business grows beyond me. I'll to the 
Queen. 

{He trots out, shaking his head. The boy skips after him, 
whistling his tune."] 

The Curtain Falls 



ACT III 

Scene II 

lA private room at an inn late at night. Through the 
door in the right wall is seen the outer public room, 
with men sitting drinking. There is a window at the 
back, set so low in the wall that, above the window- 
sill, the heads of summer Uowers glisten in the moon- 
light. On the left wall is the hearth and between it 
and the window a low bed. In the centre is a table 
with candle, glasses and mugs, and two or three men 
sitting round it drinking. Marlowe stands with his 
back to the window, one foot on a chair, shouting 
out a song as the curtain rises.] 

MARLOWE 

[Singing.] 
If Luck and I should meet 
I'll catch her to me crying, 



126 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

*To trip with you were sweet, 
Have done with your denying !* 
Hey, lass ! Ho, lass ! 
Heel and toe, lass ! 
Who'll have a dance with me? 

ALL TOGETHER 

Hey, Luck! Ho, Luck! 
Ne'er say no. Luck ! 
I'll have a dance with thee ! 

A MAN 

[Hammering the table."] 
Again ! Again ! 

LANDLORD 

[At the door.l 

Sir, sir, there's without a young gentleman hot with 
riding — 

MARLOWE 

Does the hot young gentleman give no name? 

LANDLORD 

Why yes, sir, Archer, Francis Archer ! He said you 
would know him. 

MARLOWE 

I knew an Archer, but he died in Flanders. 

LANDLORD 

He may well come from Flanders, sir, for he's 
muddy. 

MARLOWE 

Are Flanders' graves so shallow? Tell him if he's 
alive I don't know him, and if he's dead I won't 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 127 

know him, and so either way let him go where he 
belongs. 

iThe Landlord goes out.'] 

THE MAN 

What, Kit ! send him to hell with a dry throat ? 

MARLOWE 

And all impostors with him ! 

THE MAN 

But what if it were a true ghost? Have a heart! 
You'll be one yourself some day, and watch old friends 
run away from you when you come to haunt them in 
pure good fellowship. 

LANDLORD 

{At the door."] 

Sir, he says indeed he knows you. His business is 
private. 

MARLOWE 

Well, let him come in. No, friends, sit still! If 
he's the death he pretends we'll face him together as 
the song teaches. 

[Singing.'] 

When Death at last arrives, 

I'll greet him with a chuckle, 
I'll ask him how he thrives 
And press his bony knuckle. 

With— Ho, boy ! Hey, boy ! 
Come this way, boy! 
Who'll have a drink with me ? 



128 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

mary's voice 
lOn the stairs.'] 
Hey, Sir! Ho, Sir! 
No, no, no, Sir! 
Why should he drink with thee? 

ALL TOGETHER 

Hey, Death! Ho, Death! 
Let me go. Death ! 
1*11 never drink with thee ! 

MARLOWE 

What voice is that ? 

{Mary stands in the doorway. She is dressed as a boy, 
with cloak, riding boots, and slouch cap."} 

MARY 

ISinging.l 
If Love should pass me by, 
ril follow till I find him'. 
And when I hear him sigh, 
I'll tear the veils that blind him. 
Up, man ! Dance, man ! 
Take your chance, man ! 
Who'll get a kiss from me ? 

ALL TOGETHER 

Hey, Love ! Ho, I^ove ! 
None shall know. Love! 
Keep but a kiss for me ! 
[They clap.} 

THE MAN 

[To Marlowe.'] 
Ghost of a nightingale! D'you know him? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 129 

MARLOWE 

1 think I do. 

{To Mary, aside.'] 
What April freak is this ? 

THE MAN 

[With a glass.] 
Spirits to spirit, young sir! Have a drink! 

MARY 

I should choke, sir! We drink nectar in my coun- 
try. 

THE MAN 

Where's that, ghost? 

MARY 

Oh, somewhere on the soft side of heaven where the 
poppies grow. 

THE MAN 

He swore you were dead and buried. 

MARY 

And so I was. But there's a witch in London so 
sighs for him and so cries for him, that in the end 
she whistled me out of my gravity and sent me here 
to fetch him home to her. 

THE MAN 

Her name, transparency, her name? 

MARY 

Why, sir, I rode in such haste that my memory could 
not keep up with me. It'll not be here this half hour. 



130 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARLOWE 

Landlord, pour ale for a dozen, and these friends 
will drink to her, name or no name — in the next room. 

THE MAN 

Kit, you're a man of tact ! I'm a man of tact. We're 
all men of tact ! 

Ho, boys ! Hey, boys ! 
Come this way, boys ! 
Who'll have a drink with me? 
[The door closes on them.'] 

MARY 

Well, did you ever see a better boy? My hair was 
the only trouble. 

MARLOWE 

Madcap ! What does this mean ? 

MARY 

What I said ! 

[Singnig.'] 
Moth, where are you flown? 

To burn in a flame! 
Moth, I lie alone — 
You've not been near me these four days. 

MARLOWE 

Uneasy days — I could not. 

MARY 

Are you burned, moth? Are the poor wings a 
frizzle? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 131 

MARLOWE 

Not mine, dear candle, but a king of moths, 
But a great hawk-moth, velvet as the night 
He beats with twilight wings, he, he is singed, 
Fallen to earth and pitiful. 

MARY 

Oh, Shakespeare! 

My dear, I've run away because I hate 

The smell of burning. 
He was to come to me to-night to tell me his trage- 
dies and his comedies and — oh, I yawn ! And I played 
her so well too at the first — 

MARLOWE 

Who? 

MARY 

The cool nymph under Tiber stairs — what's her 
name? — Egeria. Am I your Egeria, Marlowe? 

MARLOWE 

Something less slippery. 

MARY 

Oh, she was fun to play — first to please the Queen 
and then to please myself. For I was caught, you 
know. It's something to be hung among the stars, 
something to say — "I was his Juliet !" 

MARLOWE 

What, you — you Comedy-Kate? 

MARY 

Why, I'm a woman! that is — fifty women! 
While he played Romeo to my Juliet 



132 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

I could be anything he chose. O Kit! 

I sucked his great soul out. You never lit the blaze 

I was for half an hour : then — out I went ! 

MARLOWE 

He stoops o'er the embers yet. 

MARY 

But ashes fanned 
Fly from their centre, lighter than a kiss. 
And settle — where they please ! 

{She kisses him.'] 
D'you love me? 

MARLOWE 

More than I wish. 

MARY 

Would you be cured ? 

MARLOWE 

Not possible, 

MARY 
ISinging."] 
Go to church, sweetheart, 
A flower in your coat ! 
Your wedding bells shall prove 
The death of love! The death of lovel 
Ding-dong ! Ding-dong ! 
The death of love ! 
Or so Will says. 

MARLOWE 

He should know. 

MARY 

What's that? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 133 

MARLOWE 

Nothing. 

MARY 

He's married? 

MARLOWE 

I do not tell you so. 

MARY 

Married ! He shall pay me. Married ! I guessed it 
— but he shall pay me. A country girl ? 

MARLOWE 

If you must know ! He has not seen her these ten 
years. She sent for him the night of 'Juliet/ 

MARY 

Why now all's plain. 

So she's the canker that hath drooped our rose! 

If I had loved him — I do not love him, Marlowe — 

This would have fanned a flame. Well, we're all 

cheats ! 
But now I cheat with better conscience. Married! 
Lord, I could laugh ! He must not know I know it. 

MARLOWE 

I shan't boast I told you. O Mary, when I first 
came to you, it was he sent me. He came like a child 
and asked me to see you, to say what good of him 
I could, 

Because I was his friend. And now, see, see, 

How I have friended him! 

MARY 

I love you for it. 
He shall not know. Why talk of him? Forget him! 



134 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARLOWE 

Can you? 

MARY 

Why, that I cannot makes me mad — 

MARLOWE 

Forget him? 
As soon forget myself ! I am his courage. 
His worldly wisdom — Mary, I think I am 
The youth he lost in Stratford. Yet we're one age, 
And now we write one play. If I died of a sudden, 
It seems he'd breathe me as I left my body, 
And I should live in him as sunshine lies 
Forgotten in a forest, and be found 
In slants and pools and patterns, golden still 
In all he writes. 

MARY 

dull Kit! have I adventured here to hear you 
talk of dying? 

MARLOWE 

You borrowed Archer's name. 

MARY 

1 wanted one that would startle you out to me, and 
you told me the tale of him once, how young he died. 

MARLOWE 

And how unwilling ! You've set him running in my 
head like a spider in a skull. 

Spinning across the hollows of mine eyes 

A web of dusty thought. Sweet, brush him off! 

Death's a vile dreg in this intoxicant. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 135 

This liquor of the gods, this seven-hued life. 
Sometimes I pinch myself, say — "Can you die? 
Is it possible? Will you be winter-nipped 
One day like other flies ?" I'm glad you came. 
Stay with me, stay, till the last minute of life ! 
Let the court go, the world go, stay with me! 

MARY 
{Her arms around him.'] 
So — quiet till the dawn comes, quiet! Hark! 
Who called? Did you hear it? 

MARLOWE 

Birds in the ivy. 

MARY 

No. 
Twice in the road I stopped and turned about 
Because I heard my name called. There was 

nothing ; 
Yet I had heard it — Mary — Mary — Mary! 

MARLOWE 

You heard your own heart pound from riding. 

MARY 

Again ! 
Open the window! 

{Marlowe rises and goes to the window.] 
Do you see anything? 

MARLOWE 

All's sinister. The moon fled out of the sky 
Long since, and the black trees of midnight quake. 



136 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 

And the wind! What a wind! It tugs at the 

window-frame 
Like jealousy, mad to break in and part us. 
Could you be jealous? 

MARLOWE 

If I were a fool 
I'd let you guess it. 

MARY 

Wise, you're wise, but — jealous? 
Too many men in the world I I'd lift no finger 
To beckon back the fool that tired of me, 
Would you? But he, he glooms and says no word, 
But follows with his eyes when e'er I stir. 
I hate those asking eyes. Look thus at me 
But once and — ended, Marlowe! I'll not give 
But when I choose. 

IHe sits beside her.l 

MARLOWE 

But when I choose. 
[Behind them the blur of the window is darkened."] 

MARY 
[/w his arms.'] 
Why yes ! 
Had he your key-word — ! Sometimes I like him 

yet. 

When anger comes in a white lightning flash, 
Then he's the man of men still, then with shut eyes 
I think him you and shiver and I like him, 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 137 

Held roughly in his arms, thinking of you. 
The Warwick burr is like an afterwards 
Of thunder when he's angry, in his speech. 

MARLOWE 

What does he say? 

MARY 

He says he is not jealous ! 
He would not wrong me so, nor wrong himself. 
Then the sky lightens and we kiss — or kiss not! 
Who cares? 

Then in come you. It's well he thinks you his 
In friendship — 

MARLOWE 

So I was. 

[Shakespeare swings himself noiselessly over the sill.l 

MARY 

And so you are. 
And have all things in common as friends should. 
Eh, friend? 

Oh, stir not! Frowning? If you were a fool— 
(How did it run?) you'd let me guess you — jealous! 
But you're no fool. 

MARLOWE 

Let's have no more! You know 
I loved — I love the man. 



MARY 
MARLOWE 



Why, so do I. 
You shall not! 

MARY 

Then I will not. Not to-night. 



138 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

[Standing by the window."] 
Why not to-night, my lover and my friend? 

[He comes down into the room as they start up."] 
Will you not give me wine and welcome me? 
Sit down, sit down — we three have much to say ! 
But tell me first, what does that hand of yours 
Upon her neck, as there were custom in it? 
Part ! Part, I say ! Part ! lest I couple you 
Once and for all ! 

MARY 

He's armed! 

MARLOWE 

He shall not touch you! 

SHAKESPEARE 

You, Marlowe! You! 

MARLOWE 

Stand out of her way! 

SHAKESPEARE 

You! You! 

MARLOWE 

Why then — 

[Marlowe darts at Shakespeare and is thrown off. He 
staggers against the table, knocking over the candle. 
As he strikes the second time his arm is knocked up, 
striking his own forehead. He falls across the bed. 
There is an instant's pause, then Shakespeare rushes 
to him, slipping an arm under his shoulder.] 

MARY 

Dead ? Is he dead ? Oh, what an end ! 
I never saw a dead man. Will — to me! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 139 

SHAKESPEARE 

Get help! 

MARY 

I dare not. 

MARLOWE 

Oh! 

SHAKESPEARE 

What is it? 

MARLOWE 

Oh! 
My life, my lovely life, and cast away 
Untasted, wasted — 
Death, let me go! 

{He dies."] 

MARY 

What now? Rouse up! Delay 
Is dangerous. Wake! Wake! What shall we do? 

SHAKESPEARE 

O trumpet of the angels lent to a boy. 
Could I not spare you for the golden blast. 
For the great sound's sake? What have I done? 

anne's voice 

Ah ! Done 
The thing you would not do — 

MARY 

Rouse I Rouse yourself I 
What now? 

anne's voice 
Remember — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Hark! A sigh! 



140 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 

The wind 
Keening the night — 

SHAKESPEARE 

A sound of weeping — 

MARY 

Rain. 
Is this a time for visions? White-cheeked day 
Stares through the pane. Each minute is an eye 
Opening upon us. What shall we do now ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Weep, clamorous harlot ! We have given him death, 
And shall we dock his rights of death, his peace 
Upon his bed, his sun of hair smoothed, hands 
Crossed decently by me, his friend? Close you 
His eyes with kisses, lest I kill you too! 
Give him his due, I say! his woman's tears! 
You were his woman — oh, deny it not! 
You were his woman. Pay him what you owe! 

MARY 

What ? Do you glove my clean hand with your stain, 
Red fingers ? Soft ! This is your kill, not mine ! 
My free soul is not sticky with your sins. 
You pinch your lips? You singe me with your 

tongue? 
Your country lilac that you left for me 
Taught you strange names for a woman. Harlot? 

I? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 141 

Sweep your own stable, trickster, married man! 
Lie, cheat, break faith, until you end a man 
That bettered you as roses better weeds — 

SHAKESPEARE 

That is well known. 

MARY 

— and now you'll stare and weep 
Until the watch comes and the Queen hears all. 
Then — ends all ! 

And I caught with you ! She's a devil of ice 
Since Leicester died. No man or woman stirs her; 
But she must have her toys! London's her doll's 

house. 
Its marts, its theatres. This death was half her 

pride, 
And you the other. Was I not set to mould you? 
What will she do to me now her doll's broken, 
Broken in my hand? I fear her, oh, I fear her. 
The green eyes of her justice and her smile. 
Will, if you love me — you who have had my lips, 
And more, and more, and shall have all again, 
All that you choose, and gladly given — awake ! 
Fly while there's time to save yourself and me ! 
Look not on him — he's blind — he cannot speak, 
Nor a stretch a hand to stay you — ^he's cold nothing ! 
But we, we live! Here on my throat, here, here, 
(Give me your fingers!) feel the hot pulse live! 
Yet I'll die sooner than be pent. You know me I 
Must I lie still for ever at his side 
Because you will not rouse yourself ? 



142 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Who Speaks? 
O vanished dew, O summer sweetness gone, 

perfume staled in a night, that yesterday 
Was fresh as morning roses — do you live? 
Are you still Mary? O my shining lamp 

Of love put out, how dark the world has grown! 
Did you want him so? Did it come on you 

suddenly. 
And shake you from your north — • 

MARY 

The dawn! the dawn! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Or did you never love me — where do you point? 

MARY 

To save ourselves comes first! 

SHAKESPEARE 

To answer me! 

MARY 

Fool! Fool! Will you hang? Let go, fool! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Answer me! 

MARY 

Will, for the love of living — r 

SHAKESPEARE 

Answer me! 

MARY 

1 never loved you. Are you answered? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 143 

anne's voice 

Oh— 
For a month — in the spring — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Is it a month ago? 
The trees are not yet metalled with the dust 
Of summer, that were greening when we two — 

MARY 

Oh, peace! 

SHAKESPEARE 

— in a night of spring — 

MARY 

Ah, was it love? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Remember, Beauty, when you came to me. 
As came the beggar to Cophetua, 
As queens came conquered to the Macedon, 
As Cressid came by night to Diomed, 
As night comes queenly to the bed of day 
Enmantled in her hair, so you to me, 
Juliet and all your night of hair was mine 
To curtain me and you — 

MARY 

Forgotten, forgotten — 

SHAKESPEARE 

That night you loved me — 

anne's voice 

I was drunk with dreams 
That night. 



144 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

That night of victory you loved me! 
I have my witnesses. O watching stars — 

MARY 

The eyes, the eyes, the arch of eyes! 

SHAKESPEARE 

— speak for me! 
Once was a taper that outshone you all, 
It burned so bright. Oh, how you winked and pried ! 
I saw you through the tatters of the dark 
And mocked you in my hour. Yet speak for me, 
Eternal lights, for now my candle's blown 
Past envy! But she loved me then! 

MARY 

I know not. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Though god and devil deny — you loved me then! 

MARY 

But was it love? 

I could have loved if you had taught me loving. 
Something I sought and found not ; so I turned 
From searching. I have clean forgotten now 
That ever I sought — and so live merrily — 
And so will live! Why wreck myself for you? 

SHAKESPEARE 

O heart's desire, and eyes' desire of hands, 
Self of myself, have pity! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 145 

MARY 

What had you? 
If I had borne you children (but I was wise, 
Knowing my man, as men have taught me men) 
What name had you to give them, to give me? 
No, no, I wrong you, for you christened me 
But now, first having slain him who had struck 
The rankness from your mouth. 

SHAKESPEARE 

What I have done — 

MARY 

Lied, lied to me! 

SHAKESPEARE 

— and if I did — 

ANNE's VOICE 

To hold you ! 
I couldn't lose you. I was mad with pain. 

MARY 

Tricked me — 

SHAKESPEARE 

To hold — listen to me — to hold you! 
Lest I should lose you. I was mad with pain. 

MARY 

Are you so womanish that a breath of pain—: 

SHAKESPEARE 

A breath ! God, listen ! A breath, a summer breath ! 

MARY 

!— could blow away your honour? 



146 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Once it was mine. 
I laid it up with you. Where is it now? 
I'm stripped of honour like an oak in June 
Whose leaves a curse of caterpillars eat, 
That stands a mockery to flowers and men, 
With naked arms praying the lightning down. 

anne's voice 
At Shottery the woods are green — 

SHAKESPEARE 



My God! 



anne's voice 



And full of flowers — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Let be, let be! My honour? 
I bought it with a woman — not like you, 
A faithless-faithful woman — not like you; 
But weak as I'm weak, loving as I love, 
God help her! not like you — no black-eyed Spain 
Whose cheeks hang out their red to match the red 
When bull meets man — no luxury that wears 
A lover like new clothes, and all the while 
Eyes other women's fashions ; but a woman 
That should have loved me less, poor fool, and less — 

MARY 

You should have loved me less, my fool, and less! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Yet from this folly all the music springs 

That is in the world, and all my hopes that ranged 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 147 

Lark-high in heaven! Yet murder comes of it. 
Look where he Hes ! He was true friend to me, 
And I to him, until you came, you came. 

MARY 

I came and I can go. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Mary! 

[There is a clatter of hoofs.} 

MARY 

D'you hear? 
Horses! What do they seek? You, Marlowe, melj 

SHAKESPEARE 

This they call conscience. 

MARY 

Take your hand away! 
I'll slip through yet; nor shall you follow me; 
You had your chance. Listen! A boy was here; 
One Francis Archer. Say it after me — 
No woman, but a boy, a stranger to you ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Strange to me, Mary. 

[There is a sound of voices in the yard.1 

MARY 

If you hold me now 
ril scream and swear you stabbed him as he slept, 
They're drinking still. 

[She opens the door."] 



148 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

VOICES 
[/« the outer room.'] 
Hey, boy ! Ho, boy ! 
Heel and toe, boy! 
Who'll have a drink with me? 

MARY 

If you should get away. 
Send me no message, come not near me! Now! 

[She slips into the room. Shakespeare stands at the half 
open door watching.'] 

A MAN 

Sing another verse! 

ANOTHER 

There's the boy back. Make him sing it! 

MARY 

I'm to fetch more wine first. 

THE MAN 

Sing another verse! 

ANOTHER 

If Love and I should meet, 
I'll catch her to me — 

ANOTHER 

Luck, you fool, not love! 

ANOTHER 

Where's the difference? If you're in love you're 
in luck. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 149 

ANOTHER 

Here, stop the boy! 

MARY 

Let me pass, gentlemen! 

THE MAN 

Sing another verse! 

ANOTHER 

If Love and I — 

ANOTHER 

Shut up now and let the kid sing it! 

MARY 

Why yes, if you'll let me pass afterwards, sir, like 
love in the song. 

THE MAN 

Sing another verse ! Sing twenty other verses ! 

MARY 
[Singing. "] 
If Love should pass me by, 

I'll follow till I find him. 
And when I hear him cry, 

I'll tear the veils that blind him! 

THE MAN 

Now then, chorus! 

ALL TOGETHER 

Hey, Love! Ho, Love! 
None shall know, Love! 
Keep but a kiss for me! 

IMary disappears in the crowd. The door swings to as 
Shakespeare turns back into the room.'] 



150 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

Marlowe ! Marlowe ! 

She is gone, Marlowe, that was a fume of wine 

Between us. Marlowe, Marlowe, speak to me! 

Never a sound. We have seen many a dawn 

Creep like a house-wife on the drunken night, 

And tumble him from heaven with work day hand 

And bird-shrill railing; but such a waking up 

As this we never knew. Sorry and cold 

I look on you. Kit, Kit, this mark of the knife 

Is the first blot I ever saw in you. 

The first ill-writing. Kit, for your own sake, 

You should have wronged a stranger, not your friend ; 

For like a looking glass my heart still served you 

To see yourself, and when you struck at me. 

You struck yourself, and broke this mirror too. 

\_A knock.'] 
Mary? Is it Mary? Lie you quiet, Marlowe! 
We will not let her in. 

HENSLOWE 

Within, who's within there? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Two dead men. 

HENSLOWE 

Is it Marlowe? 
Is Shakespeare there? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Come in, come in, come in! 

[Henslowe comes in hurriedly. He leaves the door half 
open behind him.} 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 151 

VOICES 
[Singing.'] 
Ho, boy! Hey, boy! 
Come this way, boy! 
Who'll have a drink with me? 

HENSLOWE 

Why, here's a bird of wisdom sitting in the dark! 
Shut your eyes, man, and use candles or you'll scorch 
out your own sockets ! What's wrong now ? But tell 
me that as we ride; for the Queen wants you in a 
hurry, and what's more an angry Queen. I'd not be 
you ! Here I've hunted London for you from tavern 
to lady's lodging till I ferreted out that Marlowe was 
here, and so I followed him for news. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Here's news enough. Henslowe, look here! 

HENSLOWE 

Who did it? 

SHAKESPEARE 

We — he and I. There was another in it. 

HENSLOWE 

Was it the youngster passed me in the yard. 
Caught at his horse and rode like fear away? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Was't a pale horse? 

HENSLOWE 

I saw not. In the dark 
A voice cried "Hurry!" 



152 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

SHAKESPEARE 

That was she. 

HENSLOWE 

Who? Who? 

SHAKESPEARB 

Death. She has fled and left her catch behind. 
Can you do anything? 

HENSLOWE 

For the living scarce — 
You must be got away. Are you known here? 
As men know Cain. All, all is finished, Henslowe! 

LANDLORD 

{Putting his head in at the door."] 
Is an3rthing wrong sir? 

HENSLOWE 

Wrong? What should be wrong? But we're in 
haste. Call the ostler ! We want a second horse. 

IHe slips his arm through Shakespeare's and tries to lead 
him to the door."] 

LANDLORD 

Is the gentleman ill, sir ? He sways. 

HENSLOWE 

Your good wine, host. 

A MAN 
{Over the Landlord's shoulder."] 
The best on the Surrey side ! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 153 

HENSLOWE 

He'll tell the Queen so in an hour if you'll make 
way. 

MEN 

{Crowding into the doorway."] 
The Queen! Did you hear? He's been sent by 
the Queen! 

HENSLOWE 

Keep your people back, landlord! 

THE MAN 
{Staggering into the room.'\ 
I say, three cheers for the Queen ! 

ANOTHER 

The Queen! The Queen! Three cheers for Bess J 

[Singing.] 
Hey, Bess! Ho, Bess! 
Heel and toe, Bess! 
Ladies and gentlemen, here's a man on the bed. 

HENSLOWE 

Ay! My friend! Let him be! 

THE MAN 

Is he drunk too? 

THE OTHER 

If I were a judge I'd say *'Very drunk"! He's 
spilled his wine on his clothes. What I say is "Waste 
not, want not !" 

LANDLORD 

Come now, come away ! You hear what the gentle- 
man says. 



154 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

THE MAN 

{Throwing him o^.] 
Hey, Death! Ho, Death! 
Let me go, Death! 
Shall I wake him? 

SHAKESPEARE 

^Turning in the doorway. 1 
Ay, wake him, wake him, old trump of judgment! 
Wake him if you can. 

And if you cannot let him sleep his sleep 
And envy him that he can sleep so sound ! 

THE MAN 

Ay sir, he shall sleep till he wakes. But we, sir, 
we*ll sing you oif the premises, for the love of Bess. 
Hey, Bess? Ho, Bess! 

ANOTHER 

{Hammering the table."] 
Death, not Bess! Death! Death! Death! Come 
along chorus! 

TWO OR THREE 

[As they lurch out of the room."] 

Ho, boy ! Hey, boy ! 

Come this way, boy! 
Who'll have a drink with me? 

ALL 

{Following.'] 
Hey, Death! Ho, Death! 
Out you go. Death! 
We'll never drink with thee! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 155 

IThe door swings to and quiet settles on the lightening 
room. The first ray of sunlight touches the bed. Out- 
side the birds are beginning to sing.} 
THE CURTAIN FALLS 



ACT IV 

[^A room in the palace, hung with tapestries. On the right 
wall is a heavy, studded door: on the left, a great 
raised seat on a low platform. On the hack wall is a 
small curtained door and a large window. A girl in 
a primrose-coloured gown stands at it holding hack 
its curtain. Set slantwise in front of it, nearer the 
centre of the stage, is a writing table with scattered 
papers. At it sits Elisabeth, a secretary beside her. 
The Queen's dress is of dull grey brocade with trans- 
parent lawn and jewels of aquamarine; hut as the 
evening deepens its colour becomes one with the dusk 
and only her white face and hands are clearly seen.'] . 

A HAWKER 

^Chanting in the street far away.] 
Cress! Buy cress! 
Who'll buy my cress-es? 
[^Elisabeth lays down her pen.] 

ELIZABETH 

These three are signed. Take them to Walsingham. 
This 111 not grant. Tell him so! 

[The man bows and goes out,] 

HAWKER 

[Nearer.] 
Cress! Buy cress! 

ELIZABETH 

There! Put the papers by! 

[The girl at the window comes down to the table and be- 
gins to sort them.] 

156 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 157 

ANOTHER HAWKER 

Strawberries! Ripe strawberries! 

THE GIRL 

I wonder, Madam, that you choose this room 
Here on the noisy street. 

ELIZABETH 

Child, when you marry 
Who'll rule your nursery, you or your maids? 

GIRL 

Why, that I will! 

ELIZABETH 

Then you must sit in it daily. Where's Mary 
Fitton? 

GIRL 

In waiting. Madam, and half asleep. She was up 
early to-day. I saw her from my window by the little 
garden door and called to her. She had been out to 
pick roses, as you bade her, ere the dew dried on them. 

ELIZABETH 

As I bade her? 

GIRL 

Yes, Madam, she said so. 

HAWKER 

{Close at hand. 2 
Cress! Buy cress! 
Fit for Queen Bess! 

ELIZABETH 

open the window! 

{The girl opens it."] 



158 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

HAWKER 

Cress! Buy cress! 
Who'll buy my cress-es? 

ELIZABETH 

Fetch me my purse ! 

[The girl goes out by the little door. As she does sOj 
Elisabeth takes her purse from a drawer and going 
to the window, throws out a coin.'] 

HAWKER 

Cress! Buy cress! 

Are you there, lady? 

[Elisabeth throws out another coin."] 

I plucked my riches 

From Deptford ditches, 

I came by a Deptford Inn; 

Where a young man lies, 

With pennies on his eyes — 

Murdered, lady, and none saw who did it! 

Cress ! Buy cress ! 

[Elisabeth Uings out another coin.] 

There was a boy that ran away, and Henslowe the 

Queen^s man, and a third — 

Cress! Buy cress! 

A supper for Queen Bess! 

[Elizabeth lays down the purse on the table as the girl 

comes back.] 

GIRL 

[Distressed.] 
Madam — ■ 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 159 

ELIZABETH 

It was here. That cress seller has a sweet voice. 
Fling her a coin and ask her where she lives ! 

GIRL 

\_Going to the window. '\ 
Hey, beggar! 

HAWKER 

Bless you, lady! 

GIRL 

Where do you come from with your green stuff ? 

HAWKER 

Marlow, lady, Marlow! 
Down by the river where the cresses grow, 
And buttercups like guineas. 
Cress ! Buy cress ! 
Who'll buy my cress-es? 
[Her voice dies away in the distance.^ 

GIRL 

She has come a long way. 

Marlow's across the river, far from us. 

ELIZABETH 

Marlowe's across the river, far from us. 
If any ask to speak with me, let me know it ! 

GIRL 

Why, Madam, Henslowe, the old player, has been 
waiting since noon, and Mr. Shakespeare with him. 

ELIZABETH 

The name's not written here. Whose duty? 



i6o WILL SHAKESPEARE 

GIRL 

Mary Fitton's. 

ELIZABETH 

Send Henslowe ! And when I ring let Mary Fitton 
answer ! 

GIRL 

I'll tell her, Madam. 

IShe goes out. Elizabeth rises and goes slowly across the 
room to the dais and seats herself. There is a pause. 
Then a page throws open the big door facing the dais 
and Henslowe enters.'] 

ELIZABETH 

Henslowe, you're not welcome 
For the news you bring. 

HENSLOWE 

Madam, that Marlowe's dead 
I know because I found him — I am new come from 

Deptford — 
But how you know I know not. 

ELIZABETH 

Why, not a keel ^1 
Grounds on the Cornish pebbles, but the jar 
Thrills through all English earth home to my feet. 
No riderless horse snuffs blood and gallops home 
To a girl widowed, but I the sparking hoofs 
Hear pound as her heart pounds, waiting; for my 

spies 
Are everywhere. Do not my English swifts 
Report to me at dusk, eavesdropping low, 
The number of my English primroses 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 161 

In English woods all spring? The gulls on Thames 
Scream past the Tower "Storm in Channel! Storm!" 
And if I hear not, sudden my drinking glass 
Rings out "Send help, lest English sailors drown!" 
The lantern moon swings o'er unvisited towns 
Signalling "Peace!" or a star shoots out of the west 
Across my window, flashing "Danger here!" 
And is it Ireland rising, or a child 
On chalk-pit roof after the blackberries, 
I'm warned, and bid my human servants haste. 
The flat-worn stones, the echoes of the streets 
At night when drunkards tumble, citizens 
In the half silence and half light trot home, 
Reveal the well, the ill in my own land. 
I am its eyes, its pulse, its finger-tips. 
The wakeful partner of its married soul. 
I know what darkness does, what dawn discovers 
In all the English country. I am the Queen. 
You have done my errand? Shakespeare the player is 
with you? 

HENSLOWE 

He waits without. 

ELIZABETH 

Then he too was at Deptford last night. 

HENSLOWE 

None knows it. 

ELIZABETH 

That's well! But was it he, Henslowe — ^he? 



HENSLOWE 



No, no, no! I'll swear it 



i62 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ELIZABETH 

But will he swear it? 

HENSLOWE 

He's dazed, he will say anything — yes — no — , 
Just as you prompt him, as if one blow had struck 
His soul and Marlowe's body. Madam, he's not his 

witness ! 
Yet, if 'twere true, if he has lost us Marlowe, 
Must we lose him? Then has the English stage 
Lost both her hands and cannot feed herself, 
Starves, Madam! 

ELIZABETH 

You're honest, Henslowe! Your son's son one day 
May help a king to thread a needle's eye. 
But do you think he did it? 

HENSLOWE 

No, though he says it, 
For he loved him. 

ELIZABETH 

Loved him, but a woman better. 

HENSLOWE 

There was no woman with them. 

ELIZABETH 

So I hear; but a boy! 

HENSLOWE 

Unknown. 

ELIZABETH 

Did you see him? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 163 

HENSLOWE 

Not his face. He was past me in a flash, crying 
"Hurry!" 

ELIZABETH 

Well, ril see Shakespeare. 

HENSLOWE 

Madam — 

ELIZABETH 

I thread my own needles, Henslowe, being a woman. 

[Mary Fitton enters.'] 

Send Mr. Shakespeare to me! 

[Then, as Mary turns to go — ] 
Mary! 

MARY 

Madam? 

ELIZABETH 

Bid him hurry! 

[Mary turns to the door.'l' 
Mary! 

MARY 

Madam ? 

ELIZABETH 

What did I tell you but now? 

MARY 

Madam, to bid him hurry. 

HENSLOWE 

{^Recognising the voice.'] 
"Hurry!" 

ELIZABETH 

Wait. Daylight, Henslowe? Girl, you're slow. 
You go heavily. Have you not slept? Let Henslowe 
do your errand! 



i64 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ITo HensloweJ] 
Let him wait at hand ! 

MARY 

Madam, I can well go. 

ELIZABETH 

No hurry now. 

]^Henslowe goes out.'] 
D'you guess why I send for your teller of tales ? 

MARY 

No, Madam. 

ELIZABETH 

He has told a tale, it seems, that I'd hear told again. 

MARY 

Told? 

ELIZABETH 

Why are you not in black, Mary? 

MARY 

I, Madam? 

ELIZABETH 

Marlowe is dead. 

MARY 

I grieve to hear it. 

ELIZABETg 

When did you hear? 

MARY 

Why, Madam, now — you tell me! 

ELIZABETH 

Then I tell you wrong. He is alive and has told all. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 165 

MARY 

Alive? They lie to you, Madam! What has he 
told? Who says it? 

ELIZABETH 

You, Mary Fitton! For by your dark-ringed eyes 
Your dreaming service and those blind hands of yours 
Seeking a hold, I think you saw him die. 
Ere you passed Henslowe in the dark, crying "Hurry !'* 

MARY 

Madam, it was your errand. For this Shakespeare, 
This quill you thrust on me to sharpen up. 
Jealous of Marlowe, though he had no cause 
(What! must I live his nun, his stay-at-home? 
Your servant and a lady of the court!), 
Sent me a letter — 

ELIZABETH 

Let me read! 

MARY 

I tore it 1 
— so inked in threat that I post-haste for Deptford — 

ELIZABETH 

111 judged! 

MARY 

I know ! I followed my first fear. 

— rode to warn Marlowe. Shakespeare following, 
Spying upon us, spying upon us. Madam ! 
Found us in counsel. Then, with a hail of words 
That Marlowe would not bear, with "stale" and 
"harlot," 



i66 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

He beat me down, till Marlowe flung 'em back ; 
Then like two dogs they struggled. Marlowe fell. 

ELIZABETH 

Struck down? 

MARY 

Struck down, but blindly, not to kill — 
I will not think to kill — and as he fell 
His own knife caught him, here. 

ELIZABETH 

What did you then? 

MARY 

I, Madam? 

ELIZABETH 

You, Madam? Did you fold your hands 
And watch this business as you'd watch a play, 
And clap them on? Or, as a short month since 
You played a part I think, did you strike in 
And play a part ? Why did you call for help ? 

MARY 

I did not, Madam! 

ELIZABETH 

Why did not Mary Fitton 
Cry help against — which lover? 

MARY 

Lover, Madam? 

ELIZABETH 

There's tinker, tailor, soldier — the old rhyme — ? 
There's Pembroke, Marlowe, Shakespeare — : 

MARY 

Madam ! Madam ! 
I'll not bear this ! 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 167 



ELIZABETH 



Ay, you have fierce black eyes — 
What will you do then if you will not bear it? 
You have leave to show. 

MARY 

I say I did cry out 
To both that they should cease. 

ELIZABETH 

So you cried out! 
Bring up your witnesses that heard you cry! 

MARY 

I did not stand and watch. I ran upon them. 
I was flung off and bruised. 

ELIZABETH 

Show me the bruise ! 

MARY 

High on my arm — 

ELIZABETH 

Rip up your sleeve and show me ! 
You stand, you stare, you're white. I think you shake. 

MARY 

Anger not fear, though you were ten times Queen 
Of twenty Englands! 

ELIZABETH 

Quiet, and quiet, my girl! 
This ill-spent night has left you feverish. 
You are too free for court. 



i68 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Too bruised and touzled for my gentlemen. 
You shall go home, I think, to heal this bruise, 
To cleanse your body and soul in country air 
And banished quiet till I send for you. 

MARY 

Upon what count? 

ELIZABETH 

On none. But I've no time. 
No room for butter-fingers. Here's a man slain 
Upon your lap that England needed. Go! 
Go, blunted tool! 

\_She touches a bellJ] 

MARY 

Madam ! Madam ! You wrong me ! 

ELIZABETH 

IVe wronged your betters, Mary, Mary Fitton, 
As tide wrongs pebble, or as wind wrongs chaff 
At threshing time. 

lA page enters at the great door on the right.'] 
Send Mr. Shakespeare to me! 

MARY 

This is the justice of the Queen of England ! 

ELIZABETH 

My justice. 

MARY 

Have I not served you? 

ELIZABETH 

All things serve me. 
They choose their path. I use them in their path. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 169 

MARY 

As once you used, they say — 

ELIZABETH 

Do not dare ! Do not dare ! 

MARY 

Dare, Madam? May I not wonder, like another. 
Why you have used me thus? 

ELIZABETH 

I used you, dirt, 
To show a man how foul the dirt can be; 
But now I brush you from him. 

[The main door opens and Henslowe enters followed by 
Shakespeare, She beckons to Henslowe.^ 

Henslowe ! 

HENSLOWE 

Madam? 

[They speak privately for a moment, then Henslowe goes 
out by the small door."] 

MARY 

[To Shakespeare."] 
You come to cue! 

SHAKESPEARE 

What has fallen? 

MARY 

Sent away 
Because of you, because my name is Mary! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Go to my lodging ! Wait for me ! I'll follow, 
For where you go I go. 



170 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

MARY 

Ay, bring your wife! 
This act is over! There are other men! 

\_She goes out.'\ 

SHAKESPEARE 

Mary ! Love, life, the breath I breathe, come back ! 
Mary, you have not heard me ! Mary ! Mary 
Come back! 

\The door shuts with a clang.'] 

anne's voice 
Come back! 

ELIZABETH 

Never in any world! 
Fasten the door there! 

SHAKESPEARE 

[Struggling to open it.] 
Open! Open, I say! 

Beat, beat your heart out ! Let me watch you beat 
Those servants of your soul until they bleed, 
Mash, agonise, against a senseless door! 
Beat, beat your weaker hands than that dead tree, 
Tear, tear your nails upon its nails in vain. 
Beat, beat your heart out — you'll not pass the door! 
Can you not come at her ? She goes — ^beat, beat ! 
The distance widens, like a ship she goes 
Utterly from you. Follow! Beat your hands! 
What? Are you held, you who bow men with words 
Windily down like corn-fields? Is she gone? 
Call up the clouds to carry you who walk 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 171 

Sky-high, star -level, eyeing the naked sun. 

Where are your wings? Beat, beat your heart out! 

Beat! 
Where is your strength ? Will not the wood be moved ? 
Cannot your love-call reach her, you who know 
The heart of the lark and how the warm throat thrills 
At mating-time? Is there a living thing 
You do not dwell in, cannot stir, and yet 
You cannot move this door? 

SHAKESPEARE 

I am not so bound — 

ELIZABETH 

Why, yes, there's the window ! You may cast down 
and be done with it all — done with it all ! I'll not stop 
you. Who am I to keep a man from his sweet rest? 
And yet — what of me, my son, before you do it? 
What of me and this England that I am? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Madam, I have not slept these five nights. I do not 
know what you say. 

ELIZABETH 

Or care? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Or care, Madam, forgive me! God's pity, Madam, 
open the door! 

ELIZABETH 

It shall not serve you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I know it. 



172 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ELIZABETg 

She has sold you, man. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I know it. open the door! 

ELIZABETH 

Come here, my son! Why do I hold you here, 
think you? 

SHAKESPEARE 

' Marlowe — 

ELIZABETH 

Tell me nothing! I'll know nothing! Mr. Shake- 
speare, where is the work I should have from you? 
Where is the new play? You sold and I bought. 
Give me my goods! Then go! 

SHAKESPEARE 

A play? You are Queen, Madam, you do not live 
our lives; so I call you not pure devilish to keep me 
here for so little a thing. 

ELIZABETH 

Yet I will have it from you! There's paper, pen — 
I'll have your roughed-out scene ere Henslowe leaves 
To-night. And ere the ended month this play, 
This English laughter, ringing all her bells. 
Before the pick of Europe at my court 
Performed, shall link our hands with Italy, 
With old immortal Athens. This you'll do, 
For this you can. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 173 

SHAKESPEARE 

{Crying outJ] 
I am to live, not write, 
To love, not write of love, to live my life 
As others do, to live a summer life 
As all the others do! 

ELIZABETH 

I thought so too 
When I was young. Then, 'mid my state affairs 
And droning voices of my ministers, 
The people's acclamation and the hiss 
Of treacheries to England and to me. 
Ever I heard the momentary clock 
Ticking away my girlhood as I reigned; 
While she — while she — 
Mary of Scotland, Mary of delight, 
(I know her sweetheart names, Maybird, Mayflower, 
The three times married honeysuckle queen. 
She had her youth. Think you I'd not have changed, 
Sat out her twenty years a prisoner. 
Ridden her road from France to Fotheringay, 
To have her story? Am I less woman, I, 
That I'd not change with her? For the high way 
Is flowerless, and thin the mountain air 
And rends the lungs that breathe it ; and the light 
Spreading from hill to everlasting hill, 
Welling across the sky as from a wound, 
A heart of blood between the breasts of the world, 
Is not much nearer, no, nor half as warm 
As the kissing sun of the valleys: and we climb 
(You'll climb as I do) not because we will. 



174 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Because we must. There is no virtue in it ; 

But some pride. Fate can force but not befool me! 

I am not drunken with religious dream 

Like the poor blissful fools of kingdom come : 

I know the flesh is sweetest, when all's said, 

And summer's heyday and the love of men: 

I know well what I lose. I'm head of the Church 

And stoop my neck on Sunday — ^to what Christ? 

The God of little children? I have none. 

The God of love? What love has come to me? 

The God upon His ass ? I am not meek. 

Nor is he meek, the stallion that I ride, 

The great white horse of England. I'll not bow 

To the gentle Jesus of the women, I — 

But to the man who hung 'twixt earth and heaven 

Six mortals hours, and knew the end (as strength 

And custom was) three days away, yet ruled 

His soul and body so, that when the sponge 

Blessed his cracked lips with promise of relief 

And quick oblivion, he would not drink: 

He turned his head away and would not drink: 

Spat out the anodyne and would not drink. 

This was a god for king and queens of pride, 

And him I follow. 



Whither? 



SHAKESPEARE 



ELIZABETH 



The alley's blind. 
For the cross rules us or we rule the cross, 
Yet the cross wins in the end. 
For night is older than the daylight is: 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 175 

The slack string will not quiver for the hand 

Of cunningest musician. 

Does the cross care, a chafer on a pin, 

Whether Barabbas writhe, or very God? 

All's one to the dead wood! Dead wood, dead wood, 

It coffins us in the end. God, you and me 

And everyone — the dead wood baffles all. 

And why I care I know not, but I know 

That I'll die fighting — and the fight goes on. 

Yet not uncaptained shall the assault go on 

Against dead wood fencing the hearts of men. 

For this I chose you. 

I am a barren woman. Mary's child 

Reigns after me in England. Yet, tonight, 

I crown my heir. I England, crown my son. 

SHAKESPEARE 

There was a better man but yesterday — 

To him the crown! King was he of all song. 

ELIZABETH 

He's king now of the silence after song. 
When the last bell-note hovers, like a high 
And starry rocket that dissolves in stars. 
Lost ere they reach us. He is lord of that 
For ever. 

SHAKESPEARE 

He — he had the luck; but I, 
But England was not lucky. 

ELIZABETH 

Be assured 
Had England chosen Marlowe, here to-night 
England had crowned him, and you in Surrey ditch 



176 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

Had lain where he lies, dead, my dead son, dead. 
Take you the kingship on you ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

A player king — 

ELIZABETH 

As I a player-queen ! I play my part 
Not ill, not ill. Judge me, my English peer. 
And witness for me, that I play not ill 
My part ! And if by night, unseen, I weep. 
Scourging my spirit down the track of the years. 
Hating the name of Mary, as she said; 
Yet comes and goes my hour, and comes again, 
My hour, when I bear England in my breast 
As God Almighty bears His universe, 
England moves in me, I for England speak. 
As I speak now. It is not the shut door, 
But I, but England, holds you prisoner. 

SHAKESPEARE 

But to what service, England, and what end? 

ELIZABETH 

I send my ships where never ships have sailed, 
To break the barriers and make wide the ways 
For the after world. 

Send you your ships to the hidden lands of the soul, 
To break the barriers and make plain the ways 
Between man and man. Why else were we two bom ? 

SHAKESPEARE 

What's the worth of a play? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 177 

ELIZABETH 

My ships are not so great 
And ride not like firm islands of dry land 
As Philip's do; yet these my cockle-boats 
Have used the vast world as a village pound. 
And fished for treasure above the planets' bed 
In the drowned palaces where, water-bleached, 
Atlantis gleams as gleams the skull-white moon. 
Rolled in the overwhelming tides of time 
Hither and down the beaches of the sky. 
Send out your thoughts as I send out my men, 
To earn a world for England! — paying first 
The toll of the pioneer. I do not cheat. 
Here is the bill — reckon it ere you pay! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Have I not paid? 

ELIZABETH 

Nay, hourly, till you die. 
I tell you, you shall toss upon your bed 
Crying "Let me sleep!" as men cry "Let me live!" 
And sleeping you shall still cry "Mary! Mary!" 
This will not pass. Think not the sun that wakes 
The birds in England and the daisy-lawns, 
Draws up the meadow fog like prayer to heaven, 
And curls the smoke in cottage chimney stacks. 
Shall once forget to wake you with a warm 
And kissing breath ! The four walls shall repeat 
The name upon your lips, and in your heart 
The name, the one name, like a knife shall turn. 
These are your dawns. / tell you, I who know. 
Nor shall day spare you. All your prospering years. 



178 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

The tasteless honours for yourself — not her — 

The envy in men's voices, (if they knew 

The beggar that they envied ! ) all this shall stab, 

Stab, stab, and stab again. And little things 

Shall hurt you so: stray words in books you read, 

And jests of strangers never meant to hurt you: 

The lovers in the shadow of your fence. 

Their faces hid, shall thrust a spare hand out, 

The other held, to stab you as you pass : 

And oh, the cry of children when they play ! 

You shall put grief in irons and lock it up. 

And at the door set laughter for a guard. 

Yet dance through life on knives and never rest. 

While England knows you for a lucky man. 

These are your days. I tell you, I, a queen. 

Ruling myself and half a world. I know 

What fate is laid upon you. Carry it! 

Or, if you choose, flinch, weaken, and fall down, 

Lie flat and howl, and let the ones that love you 

(Not burdened less) half carry it and you! 

Will you do that? Proud man, will you do that? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Because you are all woman — 

ELIZABETH 

Have you seen it? 
None other sees. 

SHAKESPEARE 

— and not as youVe the Queen, 
ril let you be the tongue to my own soul. 
Yet not for long Pll bear it. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 179 

ELIZABETH 

To each his angel 
For good or ill. 

Women to a man, the man to a woman ever 
Mated or fated. I am this fate to you, 
As to me once a fallen star you knew not. 
It's long ago. You should have known the man. 
He was the glory of the English night. 
Its red star in decline. For see what came — 
His fires were earthy and he choked himself 
In his own ash. Not good but goodly was he, 
A natural prince of the world : and he had been one 
Had he been other, or I blind, or — Mary. 
Lucifer ! Lucifer ! He loved me not, 
But would have used me. Well — ^he used me not. 
He died. I loved him. This between us two. 
Bury it deep! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Deep as my sorrow lies. 
But Queen, what cometh after? 

ELIZABETH 

Work. 

SHAKESPEARE 

And after? 

ELIZABETH 

Sleep comes for me. 

SHAKESPEARE 

And after ? 

ELIZABETH 

Sleep for you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

And after? 



i8o WILL SHAKESPEARE 

ELIZABETH 

Nothing. Only the blessed sleep. 

SHAKESPEARE 

And so ends all? 

ELIZABETH 

And so all ends. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Love ends? 

ELIZABETH 

And so love ends. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I have a word to say. 
Give me this crown and reach the sceptre here! 
The end's not yet, but yet the end is mine ; 
For I know what I am and what I do 
At last! Give me my pen, ere the spark dies 
That lights me ! And now leave me ! 

IHe turns to the table and his work.'] 

ELIZABETH 

ILoudly.] 
Open the door! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Sesame, sesame! A word to say — 

[The door is Hung open and the long passage is seen.'] 

O darkness, did she pass between your walls, 

And left no picture on the empty air, 

No echo of her step that waits for mine 

To wake it in a message? What do I here? 

"A word to say"! There's nothing left but words. 

[Elizabeth has descended from her throne and crossing the 
room, pauses a moment beside him.] 



WILL SHAKESPEARE i8i 



ELIZABETH 

Is the harness heavy — heavy? 

SHAKESPEARE 

Heavy as lead. 
Heavy as a heart. 

ELIZABETH 

It will not lighten. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Go! 

IShe goes out.'] 
I had a word to say. 
Oh, spark that burned but now — I 

ANNE'S VOICE 

It dips, it dies — 

SHAKESPEARE 

A night-light, fool, and not a star. I grope 
Giddily in the dark. I shall grow old. 
What is my sum? I have made seven plays. 
Two poems and some sonnets. I have friends 
So long as I write poems, sonnets, plays. 
Earn then your loves, and as you like it — write! 
Come, what's your will? 
Three sets of lovers and a duke or two, 
Courtiers and fool — We'll set it in a wood, 
Half park, half orchard, like the woods at home. 
See the house rustle, pit gape, boxes thrill. 
As through the trees, boyishly, hand on hip, 
Knee-deep in grass, zone-deep in margarets. 
Comes to us — Mary! 



i82 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

anne's voice 
Under the apple-trees, 
In. the spring, in the long grass — Will ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

Still the old shame 
Hangs round my neck with withered arms and chokes 
Endeavour. 

anne's voice 
Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

At right wing enter ghost! 
It should be Marlowe with his parted mouth 
And sweep of arm. Why should he wake for me? 
That would be friendship, and what a friend was I! 
Well — to the work! 

ANNE*S VOICE 

Will! Will! 

SHAKESPEARE 

What, ghost? still there? 
Must I speak first? That's manners with the dead; 
But this haunt lives — at Stratford, by the river. 
Maggot, come out of my brain ! Girl ! Echo ! Wraith ! 
You've had free lodging, like a rat, too long. 
I need my room. Come, show yourself and go ! 
"Changed?" "But I knew her!": — Say your say and 

go! 
You'd a tongue once. 

ANNE's VOICE 

You're to be greats- 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 183 

SHAKESPEARE 

Stale! Stale! 
That's the Queen's catch-word. 

anne's voice 

But I know, I know, 
I'm your poor village woman, but I know 
What you must learn and learn, and shriek to God 
To spare you learning — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Ay, like wheels that shriek, 
Carting the grain, their dragged unwilling way 
Over the stones, uphill, at even, thus, 
Shrieking, I learn — 

anne's voice 
When harvest comes — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Is come! 
Sown, sprouted, scythed and garnered — 

anne's voice 

I alone 
Can give you comfort, for you reap my pain. 
As I your loss — loss — loss — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Anne, was it thus? 

anne's VOICE 

No Other way; — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Such pain? 



i84 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

anne's voice 
Such pain, such pain! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I did not know. O tortured thing, remember, 
I did not know — I did not know! Forgive — 

anne's voice 

Forgiving is forgetting — no, come back! 

I love you. Oh, come back to me, come back ! 

SHAKESPEARE 

I cannot. 

anne's voice 

Oh, come back! I love you so. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Be still, poor voice, be still ! 

anne's voice 
I love you so. 

SHAKESPEARE 

What is this love? 

What is this awful spirit and unknown, 

That mates the suns and gives a bird his tune? 

What is this stirring at the roots of the world? 

What is this secret child that leaps in the womb 

Of life? What is this wind, whence does it blow, 

And why? And falls upon us like the flame 

Of Pentecost, haphazard. What is this dire 

And holy ghost that will not let us two 

For no prayers' sake nor good deeds' sake nor pain 

Nor pity, have peace, and live at ease, and die 

As the leaves die? 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 185 

anne's voice 

I know not. All I know. 
Is that I love you. 

SHAKESPEARE 

But I know, having learned— ^ 
This I believe because I know, I know, 
Being in hell, paying the price, alone, 
Licked in the flame unspeakable and torn 
By devils, as in the old tales that are true — 
All true, the fires, the red hot branding irons. 
The thirst, the laughter, and the filth of shame, 
All true, O fellow men! all true, all true — 
Down through the circles, like a mangled rat 
A hawk lets fall from the far towers of the sky, 
Down through the wakeful aeons of the night. 
Into the Pit of misery they call 
Bottomless, falling — I believe and know 
That the Pit's bottom is the lap of God, 
And God is love. 



ANNE S VOICE 



Is love, is love- 



SHAKESPEARE 

I know. 
And knowing I will live my dark days out 
And wait for His own evening to give light. 
And though I may not fill the mouth I love, 
Yet will I sow and reap and bind my sheaves. 
Glean, garner, mill my corn, and bake, and cast 
My bread upon the waters of the age. 
This will I do for love's sake, lest God's eyes, 
That are the Judgment, ask her man of her 



i86 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

One day, and she be shamed — as I am shamed 
Ever, in my heart, by a voice witnessing 
Against me that I knew not love. 

PAGE 

[Entering with lights.'] 

The Queen, sir; 
Has sent you candles, now the sun is down, 
That you may see to work. 

SHAKESPEARE 

I thank the Queen. 
Tell her the work goes well ! 

[He sits down at the table.'] 

Act one, scene one, 
Oliver's house. It shall go well. I have 
A strength that comes I know not whence. It shall 
Go well. And then Til give the Roman tale 
I heard at school — a tale of men, not women : 
That easies all. But Antony goes on 
To Egypt and a gipsy : leaves his pale wife 
At home to scald her eyes out. Mary — Mary — 
Will you not let me be? It shall go well. 
And after Antony some Twelfth Night trick 
To please our gods and give my pregnancy 
Its needed peace. How many months for Denmark? 
And then? A whole man laughs, and so will I. 
Oh, Smile behind the thunder, teach me laughter, 
And save my soul ! — 
The knock-about fat man, try him again! 
He'll take a month or less — candles are cheap. 
Cheaper than sleep these dreaming nights. That done. 



WILL SHAKESPEARE 187 

ril sink another shaft in Holinshed — 

Marlowe, your diamonds! your diamonds! 

The king and his three daughters — he's been shaped 

Already. True! But rough cut only. Wait! 

Give me that giant cluster in my hand 

To cut anew, in its own midnight set, 

It shall outshine Orion! Afterwards, 

A fairy tale maybe, and after that — 

And after that — and after — after? God! 

The years before me! And no Mary! Mary — 

anne's voice 
When her lost face — 

SHAKESPEARE 

It shall, it shall go well. 

anne's voice 
— stares from the page you toil upon, thus, thus, 
In a glass of tears — 

SHAKESPEARE 

They scald, they blind my view, 
No comfort anywhere. 

anne's voice 
I love you so. 

SHAKESPEARE 

The work, the work remains. 

anne's voice 

But when you're old. 
For work too old, or pity, love or hate. 



i88 WILL SHAKESPEARE 

For anything but peace, and in your hand 
Lies the crowned life victorious at last — 

SHAKESPEARE 

Like the crowned Indian fruit, the voyage home 
Rots while it gilds, not worth the tasting — 

anne's voice 

Then, 

Remember me! Then, then, when all your need 

Is hands to serve you and a breast to die on, 

Come back to me! 

SHAKESPEARE 

God knows — some day? 

ANNE's VOICE 

I wait. 

lAs he stoops over his work agaiti] 

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January, 1920 — April, 1921. 



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